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Posted 7/12/2016 6:38pm by Eugene Wyatt.

948 words from Sodom and Gomorrah Volume IV of À la recherche du temps perdu as translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright, 1922-1992, P. 21.

Their honour precarious, their liberty provisional, lasting only until the discovery of their crime; their position unstable, like that of the poet one day fêted in every drawing-room and applauded in every theatre in London, and the next driven from every lodging, unable to find a pillow upon which to lay his head, turning the mill like Samson and saying like him: “The two sexes shall die, each in a place apart!” excluded even, except on the days of general misfortune when the majority rally round the victim as the Jews round Dreyfus, from the sympathy—at times from the society—of their fellows, in whom they inspire only disgust at seeing themselves as they are, portrayed in a mirror which, ceasing to flatter them, accentuates every blemish that they have refused to observe in themselves, and makes them understand that what they have been calling their love (and to which, playing upon the word, they have by association annexed all that poetry, painting, music, chivalry, asceticism have contrived to add to love) springs not from an ideal of beauty which they have chosen but from an incurable disease; like the Jews again (save some who will associate only with those of their race and have always on their lips the ritual words and the accepted pleasantries), shunning one another, seeking out those who are most directly their opposite, who do not want their company, forgiving their rebuffs, enraptured by their condescensions; but also brought into the company of their own kind by the ostracism to which they are subjected, the opprobrium into which they have fallen, having finally been invested, by a persecution similar to that of Israel, with the physical and moral characteristics of a race, sometimes beautiful, often hideous, finding (in spite of all the mockery with which one who, more closely integrated with, better assimilated to the opposing race, is in appearance relatively less inverted, heaps upon one who has remained more so) a relief in frequenting the society of their kind, and even some support in their existence, so much so that, while steadfastly denying that they are a race (the name of which is the vilest of insults), they readily unmask those who succeed in concealing the fact that they belong to it, with a view less to injuring them, though they have no scruple about that, than to excusing themselves, and seeking out (as a doctor seeks out cases of appendicitis) cases of inversion in history, taking pleasure in recalling that Socrates was one of themselves, as the Jews claim that Jesus was one of them, without reflecting that there were no abnormal people when homosexuality was the norm, no anti-Christians before Christ, that the opprobrium alone makes the crime because it has allowed to survive only those who remained obdurate to every warning, to every example, to every punishment, by virtue of an innate disposition so peculiar that it is more repugnant to other men (even though it may be accompanied by high moral qualities) than certain other vices which exclude those qualities, such as theft, cruelty, breach of faith, vices better understood and so more readily excused by the generality of men; forming a freemasonry far more extensive, more effective and less suspected than that of the Lodges, for it rests upon an identity of tastes, needs, habits, dangers, apprenticeship, knowledge, traffic, vocabulary, and one in which even members who do not wish to know one another recognise one another immediately by natural or conventional, involuntary or deliberate signs which indicate one of his kind to the beggar in the person of the nobleman whose carriage door he is shutting, to the father in the person of his daughter’s suitor, to the man who has sought healing, absolution or legal defence in the doctor, the priest or the barrister to whom he has had recourse; all of them obliged to protect their own secret but sharing with the others a secret which the rest of humanity does not suspect and which means that to them the most wildly improbable tales of adventure seem true, for in this life of anachronistic fiction the ambassador is a bosom friend of the felon, the prince, with a certain insolent aplomb born of his aristocratic breeding which the timorous bourgeois lacks, on leaving the duchess’s party goes off to confer in private with the ruffian; a reprobate section of the human collectivity, but an important one, suspected where it does not exist, flaunting itself, insolent and immune, where its existence is never guessed; numbering its adherents everywhere, among the people, in the army, in the church, in prison, on the throne; living, in short, at least to a great extent, in an affectionate and perilous intimacy with the men of the other race, provoking them, playing with them by speaking of its vice as of something alien to it—a game that is rendered easy by the blindness or duplicity of the others, a game that may be kept up for years until the day of the scandal when these lion-tamers are devoured; obliged until then to make a secret of their lives, to avert their eyes from the direction in which they would wish to stray, to fasten them on what they would naturally turn away from, to change the gender of many of the adjectives in their vocabulary, a social constraint that is slight in comparison with the inward constraint imposed upon them by their vice, or what is improperly so called, not so much in relation to others as to themselves, and in such a way that to themselves it does not appear a vice.


918 words as Marcel Proust wrote it.

Sans honneur que précaire, sans liberté que provisoire, jusqu’à la découverte du crime ; sans situation qu’instable, comme pour le poète la veille fêté dans tous les salons, applaudi dans tous les théâtres de Londres, chassé le lendemain de tous les garnis sans pouvoir trouver un oreiller où reposer sa tête, tournant la meule comme Samson et disant comme lui : « Les deux sexes mourront chacun de son côté » ; exclus même, hors les jours de grande infortune où le plus grand nombre se rallie autour de la victime, comme les Juifs autour de Dreyfus, de la sympathie –parfois de la société –de leurs semblables, auxquels ils donnent le dégoût de voir ce qu’ils sont, dépeint dans un miroir qui, ne les flattant plus, accuse toutes les tares qu’ils n’avaient pas voulu remarquer chez eux-mêmes et qui leur fait comprendre que ce qu’ils appelaient leur amour (et à quoi, en jouant sur le mot, ils avaient, par sens social, annexé tout ce que la poésie, la peinture, la musique, la chevalerie, l’ascétisme, ont pu ajouter à l’amour) découle non d’un idéal de beauté qu’ils ont élu, mais d’une maladie inguérissable ; comme les Juifs encore (sauf quelques-uns qui ne veulent fréquenter que ceux de leur race, ont toujours à la bouche les mots rituels et les plaisanteries consacrées) se fuyant les uns les autres, recherchant ceux qui leur sont le plus opposés, qui ne veulent pas d’eux, pardonnant leurs rebuffades, s’enivrant de leurs complaisances ; mais aussi rassemblés à leurs pareils par l’ostracisme qui les frappe, l’opprobre où ils sont tombés, ayant fini par prendre, par une persécution semblable à celle d’Israël, les caractères physiques et moraux d’une race, parfois beaux, souvent affreux, trouvant (malgré toutes les moqueries dont celui qui, plus mêlé, mieux assimilé à la race adverse, est relativement, en apparence, le moins inverti, accable qui l’est demeuré davantage) une détente dans la fréquentation de leurs semblables, et même un appui dans leur existence, si bien que, tout en niant qu’ils soient une race (dont le nom est la plus grande injure), ceux qui parviennent à cacher qu’ils en sont, ils les démasquent volontiers, moins pour leur nuire, ce qu’ils ne détestent pas, que pour s’excuser, et allant chercher, comme un médecin l’appendicite, l’inversion jusque dans l’histoire, ayant plaisir à rappeler que Socrate était l’un d’eux, comme les Israélites disent de Jésus, sans songer qu’il n’y avait pas d’anormaux quand l’homosexualité était la norme, pas d’antichrétiens avant le Christ, que l’opprobre seul fait le crime, parce qu’il n’a laissé subsister que ceux qui étaient réfractaires à toute prédication, à tout exemple, à tout châtiment, en vertu d’une disposition innée tellement spéciale qu’elle répugne plus aux autres hommes (encore qu’elle puisse s’accompagner de hautes qualités morales) que de certains vices qui y contredisent, comme le vol, la cruauté, la mauvaise foi, mieux compris, donc plus excusés du commun des hommes ; formant une franc-maçonnerie bien plus étendue, plus efficace et moins soupçonnée que celle des loges, car elle repose sur une identité de goûts, de besoins, d’habitudes, de dangers, d’apprentissage, de savoir, de trafic, de glossaire, et dans laquelle les membres mêmes qui souhaitent de ne pas se connaître aussitôt se reconnaissent à des signes naturels ou de convention, involontaires ou voulus, qui signalent un de ses semblables au mendiant dans le grand seigneur à qui il ferme la portière de sa voiture, au père dans le fiancé de sa fille, à celui qui avait voulu se guérir, se confesser, qui avait à se défendre, dans le médecin, dans le prêtre, dans l’avocat qu’il est allé trouver ; tous obligés à protéger leur secret, mais ayant leur part d’un secret des autres que le reste de l’humanité ne soupçonne pas et qui fait qu’à eux les romans d’aventure les plus invraisemblables semblent vrais, car dans cette vie romanesque, anachronique, l’ambassadeur est ami du forçat ; le prince, avec une certaine liberté d’allures que donne l’éducation aristocratique et qu’un petit bourgeois tremblant n’aurait pas, en sortant de chez la duchesse s’en va conférer avec l’apache ; partie réprouvée de la collectivité humaine, mais partie importante, soupçonnée là où elle n’est pas étalée, insolente, impunie là où elle n’est pas devinée ; comptant des adhérents partout, dans le peuple, dans l’armée, dans le temple, au bagne, sur le trône ; vivant enfin, du moins un grand nombre, dans l’intimité caressante et dangereuse avec les hommes de l’autre race, les provoquant, jouant avec eux à parler de son vice comme s’il n’était pas sien, jeu qui est rendu facile par l’aveuglement ou la fausseté des autres, jeu qui peut se prolonger des années jusqu’au jour du scandale où ces dompteurs sont dévorés ; jusque-là obligés de cacher leur vie, de détourner leurs regards d’où ils voudraient se fixer, de les fixer sur ce dont ils voudraient se détourner, de changer le genre de bien des adjectifs dans leur vocabulaire, contrainte sociale légère auprès de la contrainte intérieure que leur vice, ou ce qu’on nomme improprement ainsi, leur impose non plus à l’égard des autres mais d’eux-mêmes, et de façon qu’à eux-mêmes il ne leur paraisse pas un vice.

Tags: Proust
Posted 7/8/2016 6:41pm by Eugene Wyatt.


Lydia Davis, Art of Fiction No. 227

This interview began in Oslo, in September 2013, as a public conversation between Lydia Davis and her translator Johanne Fronth-Nygren at the Norwegian-American Literary Festival. 

I certainly wouldn’t do that deliberately—ever, ever, ever. When I translate Proust, I am trying to be Proust in English. If I compare the earlier translation of Swann’s Way by Scott Moncrieff, with all his flourishes, to the way I translated it, yes, mine is plainer. But so is Proust. Scott Moncrieff’s is more redundant, more embellished. What I’m trying to do is get out of the way and let Proust’s own style come through in English. If people notice this— that Proust is cleaner and clearer in my translation—it is not because of my own style, but because I’m being more faithful to his style than the previous translator was. For example, Proust writes “the entrance to the Underworld.” That’s the plain French, and that’s how I translate it. Scott Moncrieff writes “the Jaws of Hell,” so he introduces a metaphor that isn’t in Proust. 

There is, however, something that I have less control over. More and more I think that each of us, as a writer, has a preferred vocabulary. So even though I’m trying to stay very close to Proust’s own syntax, my word choice may reflect my own preferences. If Proust says entrée, you can say entrance but you can also say way into—the way into the underworld. That wouldn’t be out of the question as a choice. In that sense, your own style does show up.

Posted 5/27/2016 9:54pm by Eugene Wyatt.

This evening I happened to be watching an example of Film Noirspecifically The Big Sleep, adapted as a screenplay from the Raymond Chandler novel by William Faulkner et al, starring Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as Vivian, directed by Howard Hawks, 1946. Chandler, through his characters Marlowe and Vivian, mentions Marcel Proust.

The screenplay, The Big Sleep,

Vivian : So you do get up, I was beginning to think you worked in bed like Marcel Proust.

Marlowe : Who’s he ?

Vivian : You wouldn’t know him, a French writer.

Marlowe : Come into my boudoir.

The novel, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler 1939, 

Vivian « Well, you do get up »

Wrinkling her nose at the faded red settee, the two odd semi-easy chairs, the net curtains that needed laundering and the boy’s size library table with the venerable magazines on it to give the place a professional touch.

Vivian « I was beginning to think perhaps you worked in bed, like Marcel Proust. »

Marlowe « Who’s he ? »

I put a cigarette in my mouth and stared at her. She looked a little pale and strained, but she looked like a girl who could function under a strain.

Vivian « A French writer, a connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn’t know him. »

Marlowe « Tut, tut, come into my boudoir. »

Posted 1/14/2016 7:02pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913, as it concerns us:

Un homme qui dort tient en cercle autour de lui le fil des heures, l’ordre des années et des mondes. Il les consulte d’instinct en s’éveillant, et y lit en une seconde le point de la terre qu’il occupe, le temps qui s’est écoulé jusqu’à son réveil; mais leurs rangs peuvent se mêler, se rompre.

Du côté de chez Swann, Marcel Proust 1913.

A translator's preface contains an apology for an attempt at transcribing a foreign idiom into a familiar one and failing; at best, a translation from a language is merely an understanding in the reader's tongue.

C. K. Scott Moncrieff is the time-honored translator of Marcel Proust's À la recherche de temps perdu; he was its first translator and his translation has been in print with revisions since 1922. 

A recent 'translation' of Swann's Way by Marcel Proust says on the cover "The C. K. Scott Moncrieff translation edited and annotated by Willam C. Carter."

After almost 100 years Mr. Moncrieff is respected today.

When a man is asleep, he has in a circle round him the chain of the hours, the sequence of the years, the order of the heavenly host. Instinctively, when he awakes, he looks to these, and in an instant reads off his own position on the earth’s surface and the amount of time that has elapsed during his slumbers; but this ordered procession is apt to grow confused, and to break its ranks.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, 1922. French Classics in French and English, P. 11.

When a man is asleep, he has in a circle round him the chain of the hours, the sequence of the years, the order of the heavenly bodies. Instinctively he consults them when he awakes, and in an instant reads off his own position on the earth’s surface and the time that has elapsed during his slumbers; but this ordered procession is apt to grow confused, and to break its ranks.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Terrence Kilmartin and D. J. Enright 1922-1992, page 3; Loc 199.

A sleeping man holds in a circle around him the sequence of the hours, the order of the years and worlds. He consults them instinctively as he wakes and reads in a second the point on the earth he occupies, the time that has elapsed before his waking; but their ranks can be mixed up, broken.

Swann's Way Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Lydia Davis 2002, P. 5 Loc 482.

When a man is asleep, he holds in a circle around him the chain of the hours, the sequence of the years, and the order of the universe. Instinctively, when he awakes, he looks to these, and in an instant reads off his own position on the earth’s surface and the amount of time that has elapsed during his slumbers; but this ordered procession is apt to grow confused, and to break its ranks.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust 1913; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and revised by William C. Carter 2013, Loc 226.

Posted 12/30/2015 4:10pm by Eugene Wyatt.

François-René de Chateaubriand; painting by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson

This morning I was driving on I-87 and listening to Audible's recording of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, specifically Vol. VII Time Regained when I heard "...the diverse melancholy of regret and absence and youth” which bowled me over. I had to stop at the next service area noting the word Newfoundland to search for the passage in my Kindle app. At home I found it. 

I like Proust when he is writing non-fiction as he does here speaking of Chateaubriand:

Is it not from a sensation of the same species as that of the madeleine that Chateaubriand suspends the loveliest episode in the Mémoires d’Outre-tombe:

“Yesterday evening I was walking alone … I was roused from my reflexions by the warbling of a thrush perched upon the highest branch of a birch tree. Instantaneously the magic sound caused my father’s estate to reappear before my eyes; I forgot the catastrophes of which I had recently been the witness and, transported suddenly into the past, I saw again those country scenes in which I had so often heard the fluting notes of the thrush.”

And of all the lovely sentences in those memoirs are not these some of the loveliest:

“A sweet and subtle scent of heliotrope was exhaled by a little patch of beans that were in flower; it was brought to us not by a breeze from our own country but by a wild Newfoundland wind, unrelated to the exiled plant, without sympathy of shared memory or pleasure. In this perfume, not breathed by beauty, not cleansed in her bosom, not scattered where she had walked, in this perfume of a changed sky and tillage and world there was all the diverse melancholy of regret and absence and youth.”

Time Regained Vol. VII by Marcel Proust; Modern Library Edition, Loc 4288 of 11587.


Proust refers to Chateaubriand's "lovely sentences" in the French—I must read the original. I tried searching À la recherche du temps perdu for Newfoundland and I found nothingit was in the French Terre-Neuve and unknown to meI tried birch or le boileau—et voilà—I found the French passage to copy from the Kindle app:

N’est-ce pas à mes sensations du genre de celle de la madeleine qu’est suspendue la plus belle partie des Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe:

« Hier au soir je me promenais seul… je fus tiré de mes réflexions par le gazouillement d’une grive perchée sur la plus haute branche d’un bouleau. À l’instant, ce son magique fit reparaître à mes yeux le domaine paternel ; j’oubliai les catastrophes dont je venais d’être le témoin et, transporté subitement dans le passé, je revis ces campagnes où j’entendis si souvent siffler la grive. »

Et une des deux ou trois plus belles phrases de ces Mémoires n’est-elle pas celle-ci :

« Une odeur fine et suave d’héliotrope s’exhalait d’un petit carré de fèves en fleurs ; elle ne nous était point apportée par une brise de la patrie, mais par un vent sauvage de Terre-Neuve, sans relation avec la plante exilée, sans sympathie de réminiscence et de volupté. Dans ce parfum, non respiré de la beauté, non épuré dans son sein, non répandu sur ses traces, dans ce parfum chargé d’aurore, de culture et de monde, il y avait toutes les mélancolies des regrets, de l’absence et de la jeunesse. »

Le temps retrouvé Vol. VII de Marcel Proust.

Posted 9/24/2015 5:38pm by Eugene Wyatt.

And stooping over the bed, with her knees bent, almost kneeling on the ground, as though by an exercise of humility she would have a better chance of making acceptable the impassioned gift of herself, she lowered towards my grandmother her whole life contained in her face as in a ciborium which she was holding out to her, adorned with dimples and folds so passionate, so sorrowful, so sweet that one could not have said whether they had been engraved on it by a kiss, a sob or a smile.

The Guermantes Way, The Modern Library Edition, p. 440

Posted 8/24/2015 8:07pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The chapter on Marcel Proust, "Perpetual Adoration": Proust and the Art Spirit  is 31 pages long of small type in Romancing The Cathedral, Gothic Architecture in Fin-de-Siècle French Culture 2001, Elizabeth Emery,

The church of Balbec provides a turning point for Proust’s hero because he has the opportunity to reassess it. Later in the novel, he meets the impressionist painter Elstir, who helps him understand the importance of Balbec for art history and for the artist. The hero finally understands that to enjoy a work of art he must trust his own emotions. Proust, himself, made such a discovery. As he began annotating La Bible d’Amiens, Proust turned to other experts—Viollet-le-Duc and Emile Mâle—through whom he realized that he had adopted Ruskin’s vision of the cathedral instead of trusting his own impressions. Mâle served as an aesthetic guide for Proust, much as Elstir does for the hero of La Recherche: he suggested churches to visit in a new series of cathedral explorations that Proust began in 1907 and he answered his questions about the symbolism and history of medieval religious architecture. Proust devoured L'Art religieux du XIIIe siècle (Mâle), which he called a “pure masterpiece and the last word in French iconography.” *

Contre Saint-Beuve 726. He had borrowed his friend, Robert de Billy’s copy (L'Art religieux du XIIIe siècle), and when he returned it, some four years later, Billy described its dilapidated condition: “il n’avait ni couverture ni page de garde et portait les marques de toutes les disgrâces qui peuvent assaillir un livre, lu au lit, dans le voisinage des remèdes” (Marcel Proust: Lettres et conversations. Paris: Editions des Portiques, 1930), 111. (p. 213)

He used the book to elucidate and correct Ruskin’s remarks when he annotated the translation he and Marie Nordlinger had made of Ruskin’s The Bible of Amiens. Bales and Autret have shown that many of Proust’s passages about medieval architecture and iconography in La Recherche—notably the descriptions of the Combray and Balbec churches above—are inspired directly from Mâle. The two remained in lifelong contact, and under Mâle’s tutelage Proust learned about Gothic cathedrals and their construction: the notes to his translations of Ruskin’s works, in which he corrects comments made by Ruskin, Viollet-le-Duc, and Huysmans, reveal his familiarity with medieval symbolism and the cathedrals of France. While Ruskin had whetted Proust’s appetite for Gothic churches, Mâle, France’s specialist of medieval architecture, explained their intricacies and led Proust to a more complex understanding of cathedrals’ form and function. (p. 146)

Romancing The Cathedral, Gothic Architecture in Fin-de-Siècle French Culture 2001, Elizabeth Emery.

Tags: Emery, Male, Proust
Posted 8/23/2015 7:22pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Two hundred pages after his visit to the Balbec church, the hero meets Elstir. Like Mâle, he is the perfect tutor because he conceives of art in both intellectual and instinctual terms. Accordingly, when the hero asks him questions about the statues of the apostles that had disappointed him on the Balbec porch, “those great statues of saints, who, perched on stilts, form a kind of avenue,” Elstir explains that this “avenue” represents history:

“It starts from the beginning of time to end with Jesus Christ,” he told me. “On one side you have his ancestors of the spirit, on the other, the Kings of Judea, his ancestors of the flesh. All of the ages are there. And if you had better examined what seemed stilts to you, you would have been able to name the figures perched up there. Under the feet of Moses you would have recognized the golden calf, under Abraham’s the ram, under Joseph’s, the demon advising Potiphar’s wife.” (ARTP II, p. 198)

In Balbec, the hero had been disappointed to find that the giant, immortal statues of the Apostles he expected to see were tarnished by the soot of the present. Elstir, however, teaches him that their procession does represent eternity; it symbolizes their continued march through time. The facade of the Balbec church, in which all of Christ’s ancestors are figured, returns, at the end of La Recherche, as an image of time. The hero sees himself staggering on his own pair of stilts, like the Apostles atop the Balbec cathedral, a figure perched precariously on the years separating him from Combray and his own ancestors: Swann, Bergotte, Elstir, and his family. (p. 148)

Romancing The Cathedral, Gothic Architecture in Fin-de-Siècle French Culture 2001, Elizabeth Emery.

And the last paragraph of La Recherche,

I understood now why it was that the Duc de Guermantes, who to my surprise, when I had seen him sitting on a chair, had seemed to me so little aged although he had so many more years beneath him than I had, had presently, when he rose to his feet and tried to stand firm upon them, swayed backwards and forwards upon legs as tottery as those of some old archbishop with nothing solid about his person but his metal crucifix, to whose support there rushes a mob of sturdy young seminarists, and had advanced with difficulty, trembling like a leaf, upon the almost unmanageable summit of his eighty-three years, as though men spend their lives perched upon living stilts which never cease to grow until sometimes they become taller than church steeples, making it in the end both difficult and perilous for them to walk and raising them to an eminence from which suddenly they fall. And I was terrified by the thought that the stilts beneath my own feet might already have reached that height; it seemed to me that quite soon now I might be too weak to maintain my hold upon a past which already went down so far. So, if I were given long enough to accomplish my work, I should not fail, even if the effect were to make them resemble monsters, to describe men as occupying so considerable a place, compared with the restricted place which is reserved for them in space, a place on the contrary prolonged past measure, for simultaneously, like giants plunged into the years, they touch the distant epochs through which they have lived, between which so many days have come to range themselves—in Time. (ARTP VI, p. 532)

Posted 8/4/2015 9:31pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Proust’s place in literature is analogous to Manet’s in painting: was he the last of the great classics or the first of the revolutionaries? Manet’s work is linked to the art of the past through its sources and often through the subjects it treats, but it looks ahead to the most radical innovations of Monet and the impressionists, although Manet still resisted having his works exhibited alongside theirs in the Salons des Refusés. In fact Manet maintained to the last an ambiguous attitude toward official art and “academicism,” even though he was rebuffed by the public and the press at the different salons that took place over the years. In Proust, as in Manet, continuity and discontinuity, tradition and revolution, make for a strange, unstable mixture in which meaningfulness and the purely “pictorial,” the novelistic and the impressionistic, realism and blurred vision coexist.

Proust entre deux siècles 1989 by Antoine Compagnon; translated as Proust Between Two Centuries 1991 by Richard E. Goodkin, p. 20.

Posted 7/28/2015 5:57am by Eugene Wyatt.

The Narrator says "So often, in the course of my life, reality had disappointed me..." and I think of him seeing Mme de Guermantes in the church and hearing Berma for the first time, etc.

So often, in the course of my life, reality had disappointed me because at the instant when my senses perceived it my imagination, which was the only organ that I possessed for the enjoyment of beauty, could not apply itself to it, in virtue of that ineluctable law which ordains that we can only imagine what is absent.

Le temps retrouvé by Marcel Proust (1927) and Time Regained translated by Andreas Mayor and Terrance Kilmartin (1981) and revised by D. J. Enright (1992) p. 263

Note: this is a posthumously published volume; (it) was written at the same time as Swann's Way, but was revised and expanded during the course of the novel's publication to account for, to a greater or lesser success, the then unforeseen material now contained in the middle volumes. Wikipedia.

In addition to Andreas Mayor and Terrance Kilmartin there are other translators of this same volume: Sidney Schiff (1931), Ian Patterson (2003) and Neville Jason (2011) who recorded his translation on Naxos. 

That "we can only imagine what is absent," reminds me of the Mahayana philosopher,  Nägärjuna (~250 BC) and the Tetralemma"It cannot be said to exist. It cannot be said not to exist. It cannot be said to both exist and not exist. It cannot be said to neither exist or not exist." Wikipedia.

At the Guermante's library in Time Regained,  once again we meet our mystical Proust (or his stand-in, the Narrator). The language they use is not as smooth and perfect as most people think. It's holely—and the homonym is intended. God lurks within it as Zen masters do not say.

What transpired in the immediate years before the Narrator happened upon the uneven paving stones in the courtyard at the Guermante's party intrigues me.

In The Varieties of Religious Experience 1902 by William James, the author states mystical states are always proceeded by a hopelessness and the surrender to this fact. This is much like the mental state of the Narrator coming from a sanatorium outside of Paris to a daytime party at the Princess de Guermantes.

... now that I possessed the proof that I was useless and that literature could no longer give me any joy whatever, whether this was my fault, through my not having enough talent, or the fault of literature itself ...

Le temps retrouvé by Marcel Proust (1927) and Time Regained translated by Andreas Mayor and Terrance Kilmartin (1981) and revised by D. J. Enright (1992) p. 254.

After many years of trying, now he had decided that he couldn't write and furthermore Art had absolutely nothing to offer him—he  surrendered to this view.

Then, just before the Narrator entered the Guermantes' mansion, he stumbles on uneven paving stones in the courtyard and seeming by magic they fill him with an uncommon joy—eventually he becomes mystically aware of Venice and the uneven stones at Saint Mark's.

'Yes, reality can contain sensual beauty'. The Narrator can see beauty (it is there in the reality he perceives) but he cannot enjoy it or imagine it because the perception overpowers his imagination. Beauty is present and he perceives it, albeit unenthusiastically—he cannot imagine or enjoy beauty's unique attributes because "we can only imagine what is absent."

We must remember that this is a sentence fragment from a long novel which becomes more mystical as I read it; it is unlike a realist work. 

Simon quotes Samuel Becket in Proust (1931), "The Proustian equation is never simple," and part of that equation is a possible ending:

And I understood that all these materials for a work of literature were simply my past life; I understood that they had come to me, in frivolous pleasures, in indolence, in tenderness, in unhappiness, and that I had stored them up without divining the purpose for which they were destined ...

Le temps retrouvé by Marcel Proust (1927) and translated as Time Regained  by Andreas Mayor and Terrance Kilmartin (1981) and revised by D. J. Enright (1992) p. 304.

Posted 7/21/2015 12:19pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Though they were now separately identifiable, still the mutual response which they gave one another with eyes animated by self-sufficiency and the spirit of comradeship, in which were kindled at every moment now the interest now the insolent indifference with which each of them sparkled according as her glance fell on one of her friends or on passing strangers, that consciousness, moreover, of knowing one another intimately enough always to go about together, by making them a 'band apart' established between their independent and separate bodies, as slowly they advanced, a bond invisible but harmonious, like a single warm shadow, a single atmosphere making of them a whole as homogeneous in its parts as it was different from the crowd through which their procession gradually wound.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs by Marcel Proust 1919; translated as Within a Budding Grove by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1923, p. 509.

Posted 5/22/2015 7:44pm by Eugene Wyatt.

At the age when Names, offering us an image of the unknowable which we have poured into their mould, while at the same moment connoting for us also a real place, force us accordingly to identify one with the other to such a point that we set out to seek in a city for a soul which it cannot enshrine but which we have no longer the power to expel from its name, it is not only to towns and rivers that they give an individuality, as do allegorical paintings, it is not only the physical universe which they speckle with differences, people with marvels, it is the social universe also; and so every historic house, in town or country, has its lady or its fairy, as every forest has its genie, every stream its deity.

The Guermantes Way 1922 by Marcel Proust; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 3.

I noticed this sentence for its expressed impossibility. Listen to a fragment from it: "...offering us an image of the unknowable..." but offering us an image of the unknowable makes it known, on one handdoesn't it. Proust's syntax is from a mostly realistic novel, À la recherche du temps perdu. But on the other hand, we can normalize this fragment to not find it impossible and still we find it somewhat implausible with very correct but disparite meanings like the Narrator's loves for Albertine where, as some would say, he metaphorically plucks the petals of a daisy and muses, "I love her, I love her not..."


Proust discusses new art, specifically music he loved, Beethoven's Late Quartets:

The reason why a work of genius (art) is not easily admired from the first is that the man who has created it is extraordinary, that few other men resemble him. 

By this thought on Beethoven and others Proust makes on his fictional artists (Bergotte, Vinteuil, Elstir), I was reminded of the title of a 1980 book The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes. By the way, the book arrived today; I wonder if Hughes credits Proust with his concept or, much less, with his title; but perhaps the idea  predates Proust.


It was Beethoven’s quartets themselves (the Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth) that devoted half a century to forming, fashioning and enlarging the audience for Beethoven’s quartets, thus marking, like every great work of art, an advance if not in the quality of artists at least in the community of minds, largely composed today of what was not to be found when the work first appeared, that is to say of persons capable of appreciating it.

Within a Budding Grove 1919 by Marcel Proust; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 142.

A "community of minds..."


With a wink, I subscribe to Groucho Marx's adage about clubs—that he wouldn't belong to any organization that would accept him as a member—yet, teasing aside, I have that specific Proustian difficulty—that of reading—I find little to read after reading Proust.

Posted 5/19/2015 9:28pm by Eugene Wyatt.

At the age when Names, offering us an image of the unknowable which we have poured into their mould, while at the same moment connoting for us also a real place, force us accordingly to identify one with the other to such a point that we set out to seek in a city for a soul which it cannot enshrine but which we have no longer the power to expel from its name, it is not only to towns and rivers that they give an individuality, as do allegorical paintings, it is not only the physical universe which they speckle with differences, people with marvels, it is the social universe also; and so every historic house, in town or country, has its lady or its fairy, as every forest has its genie, every stream its deity.

The Guermantes Way Marcel Proust translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 3.

The bold face is used to mark the subject and the verb and it marks the predicate that makes the sentence periodic.

Last Saturday I was at the Coffee Shop on 16th Street and Union Square West and I said to Sharon Girard and Marcelita Swann, two charming Proustians, "I began reading Proust because he writes difficult sentences." 

O Sharon I do agree with you; to determine the subject and the verb of a sentence helps in understanding the meaning in some of Marcel Proust's sentences; in addition, when I started reading À la recherche du temps perdu, I broke the sentence down by its parentheticals (its modifiers, its phrases, its clauses: see below) as that made the identification of subject and verb easier and the sentence more understandable.

Proust's sentence is a period, (periodos = a circuit, a race course in Greek of the time) made famous by the Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC), and is not complete until "has its lady or its fairy" makes the meaning of the sentence.  

... the decline of the periodic sentence's popularity goes hand in hand with the development toward a less formal style, which some authors date to the beginning of the Romantic period (~1800) ...

From Wikipedia: Periodic sentence.

Marcel Proust's Les Plaisirs et les Jours (1896) was written more or less in the Romantic style; but let's go forward in time and backward at once before the Romantics into Proust's Grand Style writing of À la recherche du temps perdu (1913 - 1927).


At the age when Names,

offering us an image of the unknowable which we have poured into their mould,

while at the same moment connoting for us also a real place,

force us accordingly to identify one with the other to such a point that we set out to seek in a city for a soul which it cannot enshrine but which we have no longer the power to expel from its name,

it is not only to towns and rivers that they give an individuality,

as do allegorical paintings,

it is not only the physical universe which they speckle with differences,

people with marvels,

it is the social universe also;

and so every historic house,

in town or country,

has its lady or its fairy,

as every forest has its genie,

every stream its deity.

The Guermantes Way Marcel Proust translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright, p. 3.

Note that the 1st volume ends with the subsection entitled Noms de Pays: Le Nom and the 2nd volume ends with the subsection entitled Noms de Pays: Le Pays. We are in the 3rd volume and talk about Noms still, so important it was for Proust.


A l'âge où lesNoms, nous offrant l'image de l'inconnaissable que nous avons versé en eux, dans le même moment où ils désignent aussi pour nous un lieu réel, nous forcent par là à identifier l'un à l'autre au point que nous partons chercher dans une cité une âme qu'elle ne peut contenir mais que nous n'avons plus le pouvoir d'expulser de son nom, ce n'est pas seulement aux villes et aux fleuves qu'ils donnent une individualité, comme le font les peintures allégoriques, ce n'est pas seulement l'univers physique qu'ils diaprent de différences, qu'ils peuplent de merveilleux, c'est aussi l'univers social: alors chaque château, chaque hôtel ou palais fameux sa dame, ou sa fée, comme les forêts leurs génies et leurs divinités les eaux.

Le Côté de Guermantes Marcel Proust 1920, p. 3.

Posted 5/13/2015 6:17pm by Eugene Wyatt.

We have the Narrator summarizing social personality after first reporting what his family knows and thinks about Charles Swann, thereby creating him. This is 3rd person narration—the speaker is the Narrator. 

But then, even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is a creation of the thoughts of other people.

Swann's Way Vol. 1 Marcel Proust 1913 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright, p. 23.

Below we have 1st person narration; the speaker is also one-in-the-same but he is reflective, and a more mature Narrator—it is a different time. He speaks about what he knows of the real and imaginary Albertine. You are inside the thought process of the Narrator.

What did I know of Albertine? One or two glimpses of a profile against the sea, less beautiful, assuredly, than those of Veronese’s women whom I ought, had I been guided by purely aesthetic reasons, to have preferred to her. By what other reasons could I be guided, since, my anxiety having subsided, I could recapture only those mute profiles, possessing nothing else? Since my first sight of Albertine I had thought about her endlessly, I had carried on with what I called by her name an interminable inner dialogue in which I made her question and answer, think and act, and in the infinite series of imaginary Albertines who followed one after the other in my fancy hour by hour, the real Albertine, glimpsed on the beach, figured only at the head, just as the actress who “creates” a role, the star, appears, out of a long series of performances, in the few first alone. That Albertine was scarcely more than a silhouette, all that had been superimposed upon her being of my own invention, to such an extent when we love does the contribution that we ourselves make outweigh—even in terms of quantity alone—those that come to us from the beloved object.

Within a Budding Grove Vol. 2,  Marcel Proust 1919 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright, p.  597.

"Social personality" makes sense of how characters in the novel change viewed from different points and persons. On p. 698 of Within a Budding Grove there is more 1st person narration (in the voice of the Narrator) talking about the real and imagined Gilberte and Albertine. Proust's definition of social personality is of great import to the reading of the novel and entering his fictional world. There is little fixity in real life and less in fiction factoring in unreliability both real and imaginary.

My emphasis.

Posted 5/3/2015 7:25pm by Eugene Wyatt.

When I reflect now that, on our return from Balbec, Albertine had come to live in Paris under the same roof as myself, that she had abandoned the idea of going on a cruise, that she was installed in a bedroom within twenty paces of my own, at the end of the corridor, in my father’s tapestried study, and that late every night, before leaving me, she used to slide her tongue between my lips like a portion of daily bread, a nourishing food that had the almost sacred character of all flesh upon which the sufferings that we have endured on its account have come in time to confer a sort of spiritual grace, what I at once call to mind in comparison is not the night that Captain de Borodino allowed me to spend in barracks, a favour which cured what was after all only a passing distemper, but the night on which my father sent Mamma to sleep in the little bed beside mine.

The Captive Vol. 6, translated by Moncrieff 1929, Kilmartin 1981 and revised by Enright 1992, p. 1.

The Narrator compares the night that he and Albertine kiss (sexually attractive and spritually alluring) not with the night "that Captain de Borodino allowed (him) to spend in barracks" but the night that his "father sent Mamma to sleep" in the young Narrator's room and that occurs in the Combray section of Vol. 1, Swann's Way p. ~39 ff in the C. K. Scott Moncrieff translation edited by William C. Carter. 

It is a comparison of nights. When Albertine kisses the Narrator goodnight, which is likened to communion, a sense of belonging and of distance too. The kiss is in a sentence fragment in Vol. 6 and is compared to the night of the Goodnight Kiss which is multifaceted and encompasses ten pages of Vol. 1.

Guilt...the Narrator feels about Mamma that childhood night, "I felt that I had with an impious and secret finger traced a first wrinkle upon her soul and brought out a first white hair on her head. This thought redoubled my sobs ..." The child wanted to have Mamma kiss him goodnight but he didn't want to have her abdicate her power by sleeping in the same bedroom as him at the father's insistence.

One wants to be a child as long as one can be, growing up can be very cold. And the power of womanhood in the 19th century was less than that of manhood but certainly more than that of childhood. "At the father's insistence,"—then, was not the father the king of his castle; a king heeds no "principles" and for him there is no "rule of law"—he can say to his wife as if speaking to a vassal, "Go along with the child..." This is to specify the difference in behaviors between then and now, not to measure time past by time present.

The kiss is about growing up and has a sense of moral sweetness to it; communion comes later as the older Narrator reflects on the Goodnight Kiss episode (in the episode itself)* which contains one of the most beautiful and wistful passages in the book—it is communion itself. I will include the passage under its own entry entitled, "Sobs".

*In the writing of this piece I began to see the age (or ages) of the Narrator as continuous, not as distinct, as I'd somewhat understood the storyteller before. This enables the acrobatic Proust more free play when choosing the age (or person) to narrate from and it seems more natural in the storytelling.


Quand je pense maintenant que mon amie était venue, à notre retour de Balbec, habiter à Paris sous le même toit que moi, qu'elle avait renoncé à l'idée d'aller faire une croisière, qu'elle avait sa chambre à vingt pas de la mienne, au bout du couloir, dans le cabinet à tapisseries de mon père, et que chaque soir, fort tard, avant de me quitter, elle glissait dans ma bouche sa langue, comme un pain quotidien, comme un aliment nourrissant et ayant le caractère presque sacré de toute chair à qui les souffrances que nous avons endurées à cause d'elle ont fini par conférer une sorte de douceur morale, ce que j'évoque aussitôt par comparaison, ce n'est pas la nuit que le capitaine de Borodino me permit de passer au quartier, par une faveur qui ne guérissait en somme qu'un malaise éphémère, mais celle où mon père envoya maman dormir dans le petit lit à côté du mien.

La prisonnière Vol. 6, Marcel Proust 1923 p. 1.

My emphasis.

Tags: Proust
Posted 5/2/2015 12:50pm by Eugene Wyatt.

It is a long time, too, since my father has been able to tell Mamma to “Go with the child.” Never again will such hours be possible for me. But of late I have been increasingly able to catch, if I listen attentively, the sound of the sobs that I had the strength to control in my father’s presence, and that broke out only when I found myself alone with Mamma. In reality, their echo has never ceased: and it is only because life is now growing more and more quiet around about me that I hear them afresh, like those convent bells that are so effectively drowned out during the day by the noises of the streets that one would suppose them to have been stopped forever, until they sound out again through the silent evening air.

Swann's Way Vol. 1 Marcel Proust translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1924 and edited by William C. Carter 2014, p. 42.

Proust likens the Narrator's sobs to convent bells, not only is that simile fresh but it relates sexuality to spritually and that undercurrent flows through À la recherche du temps perdu, not to mention the church itself.

Tags: Proust, Sobs
Posted 4/27/2015 6:18pm by Eugene Wyatt.

From Within a Budding Grove Vol. 2 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright (1924, 1981, 1992), p. 592.

I was accompanying Elstir back to his villa when suddenly, as it were Mephistopheles springing up before Faust, there appeared at the end of the avenue—like a simple objectification, unreal and diabolical, of the temperament diametrically opposed to my own, of the semi-barbarous and cruel vitality of which I, in my weakness, my excess of tortured sensibility and intellectuality, was so destitute—a few spots of the essence impossible to mistake for anything else, a few spores of the zoophytic band of girls, who looked as though they had not seen me but were unquestionably engaged in passing a sarcastic judgment on me.

A playful periodic sentence. After several subordinate clauses and phrases that modify the main idea: "... there appeared at the end of the avenue— ... a few spores of the zoophytic band of girls ..." that thus completes the principle idea.

But lo and behold—behind that—two relative clauses in a loose sentence structure: "... who looked as though they had not seen me but were unquestionably engaged in passing a sarcastic judgment on me." The sentence could go on and on adding more modifiers as cumulative or loose sentences do, or have them cut from the sentence and maintain its basic meaning, which is a loose sentence’s aspect.

Posted 4/26/2015 1:37pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Proust's sentence—from the previous blog entry entitled Madame Swann At Home that I exemplify here a second time—is a periodic sentence as many of Marcel Proust's in À la recherche de temps perdu are; but the sentence makes use of the subordination of hypotaxis, the subject of the previous entry.

Les jours où Mme Swann n'était pas sortie du tout, on la trouvait dans une robe de chambre de crêpe de Chine, blanche comme une première neige, parfois aussi dans un de ces longs tuyautages de mousseline de soie, qui ne semblent qu'une jonchée de pétales roses ou blancs et qu'on trouverait aujourd'hui peu appropriés à l'hiver, et bien à tort. Car ces étoffes légères et ces couleurs tendres donnaient à la femme—dans la grande chaleur des salons d'alors fermés de portières et desquels ce que les romanciers mondains de l'époque trouvaient à dire de plus élégant, c'est qu'ils étaient «douillettement capitonnés»—le même air frileux qu'aux roses, qui pouvaient y rester à côté d'elle, malgré l'hiver, dans l'incarnat de leur nudité, comme au printemps.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs Vol. 2, Marcel Proust (1919)

From Wikipedia: Periodic Sentence

"A periodic sentence is a stylistic device employed at the sentence level, described as one that is not complete grammatically or semantically before the final clause or phrase.

The periodic sentence emphasizes its main idea by placing it at the end, following all the subordinate clauses and other modifiers that support the principal idea.

The sentence unfolds gradually, so that the thought contained in the subject/verb group only emerges at the sentence's conclusion.

It is the opposite of the loose sentence, also continuous or running style, where the subject and verb are introduced at the beginning of the sentence.

Periodic sentences often rely on hypotaxis, whereas running sentences are typified by parataxis.

Cicero is generally considered to be the master of the periodic sentence."

On days when Mme Swann had not left the house, one found her in a crêpe-de-Chine dressing-gown, white as the first snows of winter, or, it might be, in one of those long pleated chiffon garments, which looked like nothing so much as a shower of pink or white petals, and would be regarded today as highly inappropriate for winter—though quite wrongly, for these light fabrics and soft colours gave to a woman— in the stifling warmth of the drawing-rooms of those days, with their heavily curtained doors, rooms of which the most elegant thing that the society novelists of the time could find to say was that they were "cosily padded”*—the same air of coolness that they gave to the roses which were able to stay in the room there beside nudity, as though it were already spring.

Within a Budding Grove Vol. 2 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright (1924, 1981, 1992), p. 232.

I would have translated the latter portion of the sentence differently—but either way it remains a period:

*—the same air chilled the roses beside her—in spite of the Winter—which were the pinkness of their nudity in Spring.

In Proust's sentence we have a periodic structure that requires a known ending of the sentence (by the writer) in the writing of the sentence. Proust's sentence isn't complete, or makes sense, until the last word or phrase is uttered. This makes it a period. "Spring" or one of its synonyms had to be known by Marcel Proust in his drafting the sentence.  It makes the sentence easier to read by having 'a little bit of his madness', to know upon the reading of it what he supposed when he wrote it.

*My emphasis.

Posted 4/22/2015 1:12pm by Eugene Wyatt.

At random I selected a sentence from Within a Budding Grove. It is 145 words long; not a long sentence for Marcel Proust writing À la recherche du temps perdu.

Les jours où Mme Swann n'était pas sortie du tout, on la trouvait dans une robe de chambre de crêpe de Chine, blanche comme une première neige, parfois aussi dans un de ces longs tuyautages de mousseline de soie, qui ne semblent qu'une jonchée de pétales roses ou blancs et qu'on trouverait aujourd'hui peu appropriés à l'hiver, et bien à tort. Car ces étoffes légères et ces couleurs tendres donnaient à la femme—dans la grande chaleur des salons d'alors fermés de portières et desquels ce que les romanciers mondains de l'époque trouvaient à dire de plus élégant, c'est qu'ils étaient «douillettement capitonnés»*—le même air frileux qu'aux roses, qui pouvaient y rester à côté d'elle, malgré l'hiver, dans l'incarnat de leur nudité, comme au printemps. 

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, Marcel Proust (1919)


On days when Mme Swann had not left the house, one found her in a crêpe-de-Chine dressing-gown, white as the first snows of winter, or, it might be, in one of those long pleated chiffon garments, which looked like nothing so much as a shower of pink or white petals, and would be regarded today as highly inappropriate for winter—though quite wrongly, for these light fabrics and soft colours gave to a woman— in the stifling warmth of the drawing-rooms of those days, with their heavily curtained doors, rooms of which the most elegant thing that the society novelists of the time could find to say was that they were "cosily padded”—the same air of coolness that they gave to the roses which were able to stay in the room there beside nudity, as though it were already spring.

Within a Budding Grove translated as by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and revised by Enright (1924, 1981, 1992); the page number, p. 232, is from the Modern Library Edition. 

In 1907, when Proust was 36, letters from friends about his articles in Le Figaro mention complimentarily his sentence length. It seems that a new style—a new voice—for Marcel Proust involved the lengthening of his sentences

In comparison let's look anecdotally at Les Plaisirs et les Jours, Proust's collection of prose poems and novellas published 11 years earlier when he was 25.

Skipping the science we may say, as his contemporaries said, "we have a good idea" that M. Proust has changed his writing style. Even though I haven't read Les Plaisirs et les Jours completely it has sentences that—as a rule of thumb—are shorter than those in À la recherche du temps perdu.

According to William C. Carter, his biographer, Proust replies in 1907 to a confident, Mme Strauss, and he wishes he could be more succinct as she is in her writing—one thinks that already his style must have changed as apologies always come after the fact.

Proust was schooled in rhetoric as were all schoolboys at his level in the late 19th century. Rhetorically, Proust made his sentences longer—but by not turning his back on classical rhetoric and Cicero as was the Romantic mode of the day—with the usage of hypotactic parentheticals (I suspect their usage is innate in a writer—but even if it's not—we should call this rhetorical syntax by its name: hypotaxis); an opposite of sorts is called parataxis and they may be best defined by examining their difference: 

In hypotaxis, the sentences, clauses and phrases are subordinated and linked. However, in parataxis the phrases, clauses and sentences are not subordinated or coordinated.

From Literary Devices

My source for the following two examples is Richard A. Lantham's Analyzing Prose 1983. From Gaius Julius Caesar (100 BC - 44 BC) a famous example of parataxis,

Veni, vidi, vici. [I came, I saw, I conquered

and from Ernest Hemingway's Farewell To Arms 1929:

Now in the fall the trees were all bare and the roads were muddy. I rode to Gorizia from Udine on a camion. We passed other camions on the road and I looked at the country. The mulberry trees were bare and the fields were brown. ...

No subordination, everything is equal.

From the quoted passage of À la recherche du temps perdu above is an example of hypotaxis,

... it might be, in one of those long pleated chiffon garments, which looked like nothing so much as a shower of pink or white petals, and would be regarded today as highly inappropriate for winter ...

One clause is subordinated to another; there are dependencies of phrase and inequality of syntax is the norm.

It appears that people who describe a hierarchical situation: a youth describing growing up; an aristocracy; a social milieu of which one finds people above one and people below, can make use of hypotaxis and Marcel Proust has described all three.

Posted 4/21/2015 12:14pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Another feature of Proust’s article was more remarkable still: he twice mentioned arriving home to see his parents, who were, of course, no longer living. This article and “Sur la lecture” contain the earliest known manifestations of the first- person voice that was to become the Narrator’s. If the author had begun to feel at home with the voice and persona of the Narrator, he had still not found the story in which his hero was to live and breathe. The voice we begin to hear in “Impressions de route en automobile” belongs no longer to Proust the man but to the storyteller, the voice behind the Narrator’s.

Marcel Proust, A Life, William C. Carter Loc 9209

Tags: Carter, Proust
Posted 3/23/2015 6:14pm by Eugene Wyatt.

I was curious. Was the struggle to write fiction the same for Marcel Proust as it was for the Narrator(s) In Search of Lost Time Yes, Proust was reluctant to think of himself as a writer but his articles were published in Le Figaro and well received. Yet Proust doubted his abilities as a writer of fiction—which he valued more highly than writers of nonfiction—but perhaps the poorly received novellas of Les Plaisirs et les Jours published in 1896 were part of his doubt along with the novel, called Jean Santeuil, that he could not finish satisfactorily and abandoned in 1900.

For a second time, I read the biography by William C. Carter where he says in his preface to Marcel Proust: A Life, "... (he) came to produce what is arguably the most brilliant sustained prose narration in the history of literature."

Chronologically, I would read Carter's references to the development of Proust's "mature voice" in various letters, published articles, Contre Sainte-Beuve and his translations of John Ruskin's The Bible of Amiens and here I quote Marcel Proust from the translators preface to Sesame and Lilies:

It is likewise the living syntax of seventeenth-century France - and in it vanished customs and turns of thought - that we love to find in Racine’s poetry. The forms themselves of this syntax, laid bare, honoured, embellished by a chisel as sturdy as it is delicate, are what move us in his turns of phrase, colloquial to the point of strangeness and daring, 19 whose abrupt pattern we see, in the sweetest and most touching passages, flash by like an arrow or turn back in beautiful broken lines.

19 For example, I believe that the charm we are accustomed to find in these lines from Racine’s Andromaque:

Pourquoi l’assassiner? Qu’a-t-il fait? A quel titre? Qui te l’a dit?

[Why murder him? What did he do? On what grounds? Who told you that?]

comes precisely from intentionally breaking the customary syntactical connections. ‘On what grounds?’ refers not to ‘What did he do?’ — the immediately preceding sentence — but to ‘Why murder him?’ and ‘Who told you that?’ refers to the ‘murder’ as well. ... Such zigzags of expression ...

Marcel Proust, note 19 to his translator's preface of John Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies (1905) published as On Reading, translated by Damion Searles p. 40. 

The Andromaque passage quoted by Proust is uttered by Hermione (in love with Pyrrhus) to Orestes (in love with Hermione). Hermione asks Orestes to kill Pyrrhus (in love with Andromaque). But she regrets her request, and before Hermione can cancel it, Orestes tells her the deed is done: Pyrrhus is dead.   


Pourquoi l’assassiner? Qu’a-t-il fait? A quel titre? Qui te l’a dit?

Proust was well aware of Racine's "zigzags of expression" and his "breaking the customary syntactical connections"; we might see this broken syntax in Proust's novel as "strangeness and daring" or something else as that impression will be music to one and noise to another.

In lieu of Racine's Hermione who responds to her rapid and changing thoughts of Orestes (to his differing "social personalities" as they are manifested in her mind) we have multiple narrators tell the story of the Search as it occurs. This is Proust using Racine not slavishly but creatively: The telling goes from one narrator to another, and then back again, but the telling, or the narration, may or may not be the same in later occurrences. If you will, it is music in the Search; it is like variations of a phrase within a larger sonata-like composition. 

Below I have selected a passage from Within a Budding Grove (which I happened to reread recently and was impressed with Proust's superb handling of the character M. de Norpois) that has the three basic narrational schemes In Search of Lost Time:

The younger, active Narrator; 1st person

The older, reflective Narrator; 1st person

Marcel Proust; 1st and 3rd persons

There are more narrators (versions of the active, the reflective narrators and the "social personalities" of Marcel Proust and how reliable these narrators are or what they know) In Search of Lost Time than those I've listed, but the three will suffice as they are different from one another and mostly irreducible.

In this passage we begin with the active Narrator, 

“Oh, Monsieur,” I assured M. de Norpois, when he told me that he would inform Gilberte and her mother how much I admired them, “if you would do that, if you would speak of me to Mme Swann my whole life would not be long enough to prove my gratitude, and that life would be all at your service.

transitioning into the reflective Narrator:

But I feel bound to point out to you that I do not know Mme Swann, and that I have never been introduced to her.” I had added these last words from a scruple of conscience, and so as not to appear to be boasting of an acquaintance which I did not possess.

the reflective Narrator continues,

But as I uttered them I sensed that they were already superfluous, for from the beginning of my speech of thanks, with its chilling ardour, I had seen flitting across the face of the Ambassador an expression of hesitation and displeasure, and in his eyes that vertical, narrow, slanting look

until we arrive at a simile,

*(like, in the drawing of a solid body in perspective, the receding line of one of its surfaces),

in which Marcel Proust interrupts the reflective Narrator with a likeness—he is the speaker. Most generally Proust uses similes in his own voice—as many writers of fiction do (there are passages in the Search, for example, about aesthetics and art that Proust soliloquies in his voice as the narrator). Then we go back to the very sophisticated turn of phrase of the reflective Narrator.

This is a music of syntax, and also of narration, in that the repetition or near-repetition, so important in music, is occasioned by the breaking of the syntactical (and narrative voices) connections making the repetition or the reconnection possible making music.

This novel is wealthy; there are different types (or themes) of prose music here. Let's listen to the reflective Narrator:

that look which one addresses to the invisible interlocutor whom one has within oneself at the moment when one is telling him something that one’s other interlocutor, the person to whom one has been talking up till then—myself, in this instance—is not meant to hear. ...

Within a Budding Grove, Marcel Proust, 1919; translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright, 1992 p. 68.

To note here: For Proust to have been celebrated as he is, he had to be compared favorably with Racine, Balzac, Flaubert and the greats of French literature. In other words he had to do something new and his narration in the Search is part of that newness. No one had told a story like he had before. And noteworthy is John Ruskin and how he composed and how his composition had influenced the fiction of In Search of Lost Time. At first, Ruskin in his ellipses (the order he appears to leave out) makes one think of Racine and his rapid changes of address (it appears that order has been left out until his "zigzags of expression" are explained). 

In Proust's words...

He (Ruskin) moves from one idea to the next without any apparent order but actually the imagination which leads him is following its own deep affinities and imposing a higher logic on him in spite of himself, to such an extent that at the end he finds himself to have obeyed a kind of secret plan, unveiled at the end, that retroactively imposes a kind of order on the whole and makes it seem magnificently staged, right up to the climax of the final apotheosis. ...

Marcel Proust's note 1 to John Ruskin's Of Kings Treasuries in On Reading translated by Damion Searles p. 94.

*My emphasis.

Posted 3/15/2015 9:32pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Si je ne compris pas la Sonate je fus ravi d'entendre jouer Mme Swann. Son toucher me paraissait, comme son peignoir, comme le parfum de son escalier, comme ses manteaux, comme ses chrysanthèmes, faire partie d'un tout individuel et mystérieux, dans un monde infiniment supérieur à celui où la raison peut analyser le talent.

"N'est-ce pas que c'est beau cette Sonate de Vinteuil?" me dit Swann.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, 1919 Marcel Proust, Loc 1756 of 8912


If I did not understand the sonata, I was enchanted to hear Mme Swann play. Her touch appeared to me (like her wrapper, like the scent of her staircase, like her coats, like her chrysanthemums) to form part of an individual and mysterious whole, in a world infinitely superior to that in which reason is capable of analysing talent.

“Isn’t it beautiful, that Vinteuil sonata?” Swann asked me.

Within a Budding Grove, 1992 translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright, P. 144.

Posted 2/24/2015 6:16pm by Eugene Wyatt.

One work Proust was eager to hear again in the late winter of 1916 was César Franck’s Quartet in D as performed by the Poulet QuartetOne evening at a concert by this ensemble, Proust approached the viola player Amable Massis during the intermission and asked him whether the group would be willing to come and play for him in a private concert. Massis agreed in principle and thought no more about it.

One night around eleven Gaston Poulet, the leader of the quartet, heard his doorbell ring. Poulet, already in his pajamas, opened the door to find himself face to face with a thin, pale man with a moustache, who said, “I am Marcel Proust.” The caller made an unusual request: he wanted to hear Franck’s Quartet that very night. There was a cab waiting that could round up the other members of the quartet. Poulet agreed. Once in the cab Poulet directed the driver to the homes of Louis Ruyssen, cellist, Victor Gentil, second violin, and Amable Massis, viola. When Massis entered the taxi, he saw Proust wrapped in a huge eiderdown; there was a bowl of mashed potatoes sitting on the folding seat. Massis, suddenly disconcerted by the oddity of the situation, received a reassuring smile and gesture from the driver, signaling that his employer was somewhat bizarre, but harmless. By the time Proust had collected all the musicians and their instruments and arrived back at boulevard Haussmann, it was nearly one in the morning.

Céleste opened the door and greeted the group. Massis, like everyone who saw her the first time, noted that she was tall for a woman, svelte, and very pretty. The men removed their overcoats, opened their cases, and took out their instruments. Massis remembered playing in a bedroom lighted solely by candles. Just beyond a circle of light a divan covered in green velvet had been placed in the semidarkness; near the bed stood a mountain of manuscripts. The opening of the chimney had been covered, as Poulet had recommended, to prevent any of the sound from escaping. While Céleste assisted the musicians in setting up makeshift music stands, Proust stretched out on the divan.

The String Quartet in D Major, FWV 9: II. Scherzo. Vivace by the Vilnius Quartet

During the playing Proust lay with his eyes closed, without making the slightest movement. So solemnly eerie was this concert deep in the night that the musicians dared not speak to each other between movements. When the last notes of the Franck piece were no longer audible, Proust opened his eyes and asked the musicians to begin again. The stricken instrumentalists looked at each other. The Franck quartet took forty- five minutes to perform. It was now around two in the morning, and the musicians felt dead with fatigue. Sensing their distress, Proust asked Massis to bring him a small Chinese box from a nearby shelf. The novelist opened it and removed a stack of fifty- franc bank bills redeemable for gold. He handed each musician three of the bills. According to Massis’s recollection, 150 of these gold francs were worth 45,000 ordinary francs. Their energy restored at the sight of so much money, the musicians immediately began again to play the entire quartet. The room filled once more with the strains of the Pater Angelus.

Afterward, Proust thanked the musicians warmly and told them that he would like to have them back again under similar conditions. Céleste came in with champagne and fried potatoes. Shortly before dawn the musicians stepped out onto the boulevard Haussmann to find four taxis waiting to take them home.

Marcel Proust: A Life, William C. Carter 2013

Posted 2/17/2015 12:43pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Marcel Proust writes in 1910 to Robert Dreyfus, a long time friend, whose brother Henri has just died,

Proust...used one of his favorite images, found in a number of variations in Time Regained (his last volume): 

“In continuing to live thus you will be living in a region of yourself where the barriers of flesh and time no longer exist, where there is no death, because there is no time and no body, and where one lives tranquilly in the immortal company of those one loves.”

Marcel Proust, A Life (2002-2013) William C. Carter.

Since high school I've loved The Mountains High (1961) by Dick and Dee Dee; their lyrics resemble Marcel Proust in the quote above,

I know someday that we will meet again,

But I don't know exactly where or wh-en-n-n-n-en. 

Posted 1/6/2015 9:45pm by Eugene Wyatt.

These reflections on Ruskin’s compositional methodology provide us with a foretaste of Proust’s understanding of his own forthcoming apotheosis. He would shortly abandon the need to recreate in himself what a master had felt. Instead, he became one.

Forward by Eric Karpeles 2011, p. x.

Marcel Proust and John Ruskin, On Reading, translated by Damion Searls,  

Tags: Proust, Ruskin
Posted 12/31/2014 8:04am by Eugene Wyatt.

So he (Sainte-Beuve) differs from Emerson, who said one must hitch one’s waggon to a star. He tried to hitch his waggon to what is nearest at hand, to politics: and said, “I thought it interesting to collaborate in a great social movement.” He harped on what a pity it was that Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Hugo, should have taken up with politics, but in reality politics play less part in their writings than in his criticism. Why did he say of Lamartine: “The talent is left out”? Of Chateaubriand: “These Memoires in fact, are not very kind and that is their main defect. For as far as talent goes, mingled with a vein of bad taste, and with verbal abuses of all kinds—which for that matter are to be found in almost all M. de Chateaubriand’s writings—there are many pages bearing the stamp of the master, the claw-mark of the old lion; sudden flights side by side with childish whimsies, and passages of such grace, such magical suavity, that one owns the enchanter’s voice and wand.” “I really should not be able to discuss Hugo.”

Marcel Proust on Art and Literature (containing Contre Sainte-Beuve ~1908, p. 19 to p. 276) translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner 1957, p. 113.

Posted 12/24/2014 11:51am by Eugene Wyatt.

Let Marcel Proust speak about writing style in his own words in a note to the translators preface of Ruskin's Sesames and Lilies:

19. For example, I believe that the charm we are accustomed to find in these line from Racine’s Andromaque:

Pourquoi l'assassiner ? Qu’a-t-ilfait ? A quel titre ? Qui te la dit ?

[Why murder him? What did he do? On what grounds? Who told you that?]

comes precisely from intentionally breaking the customary syntactical connections. ‘On what grounds?’ refers not to ‘What did he do?’ - the immediately preceding sentence - but to ‘Why murder him?’ and ‘Who told you that?’ refers to the ‘murder’ as well. (Recalling another line of Andromache’s, 'Qui vous Va dit, seigneur, qu'il me meprise ?’ [‘Who told you that, milord, that he mistrusts me?’], we might at first suppose that ‘Who told you that?’ means ‘Who told you to murder him?’) Such zigzags of expression (the broken lines I speak of in the text above) can only obscure the meaning, and in fact I have heard a great actress, more concerned with clarity of sense than prosodic exactitude, simply say: ‘Why murder him? On what grounds? What did he do?’ Racine’s most famous lines are in reality famous because we are charmed by their bold audacity of language, thrown like a daring bridge from one euphonious riverbank to the other.

Marcel Proust, On Reading, Translators preface to Sesame and Lilies, 1906, in Marcel Proust and John Ruskin, On Reading, 1911, translated by Damion Searl, p. 40.

That Proust was aware of Racine's break of "customary syntactical connections" by 1906 is a reason to closely read À la recherche to see if Proust implemented what he knew of Racine's writing style, and if so, how often.

Posted 12/17/2014 7:12am by Eugene Wyatt.

From Contre Sainte-Beuve ~1908,

And just then I saw, quivering on the sill of the French window, a pulse like a heartbeat, dim and colourless, but continually dilating and enlarging, and which one felt was going to become a sunbeam. And indeed a moment later it half invaded the sill, and then, after a brief hesitation, a shy drawing-back, flooded it all over with a pale light in which swam the rather indistinct shadows of the iron-work balcony railings. ...

Marcel Proust on Art and Literature (containing Contre Sainte-Beuve) translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner 1957 p. 74.

Posted 12/16/2014 5:09pm by Eugene Wyatt.

From Swann's Way 1913,

... And so, from lunch-time onwards, my anxious eyes never left the unsettled, clouded sky. It remained dark. The balcony in front of the window was grey. Suddenly, on its sullen stone, I would not exactly see a less leaden colour, but I would feel as it were a striving towards a less leaden colour, the pulsation of a hesitant ray that struggled to discharge its light. A moment later, the balcony was as pale and luminous as a pool at dawn, and a thousand shadows from the iron-work of its balustrade had alighted on it. ...

Published in Le Figaro 1912 from Swann's Way Marcel Proust 1913, translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright 1922-1992 p. 563.

Posted 12/16/2014 9:10am by Eugene Wyatt.

At heart, I know quite well that a number of people, some of them my intimate friends, will make nothing of my article; but even from these I get the agreeable feeling that today I shall occupy their minds, if not with my thoughts, which will be totally inapparent to them, at least with my name, my personality, and the merit they impute to some one able to write so many things they do not understand at all. There is a person to whom this will give the idea of me that I so much desire she should have. Just by fact of existing, this article that she will not understand is a declaration of my merit which will reach her ears. Alas, a declaration of the merit of someone she does not love will no more charm her heart than a page filled with ideas she does not possess will detain her mind.

Marcel Proust on Art and Literature translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner 1957, (from Contre Sainte-Beuve) p. 66.

Posted 12/15/2014 6:45am by Eugene Wyatt.

I unfolded the copy of Le Figaro. ... It is my article! ... What I am holding in my hand is not only my own thought, it is thousands of wakened attentions taking it in. ... If I compared my article with the article I meant to write—as later on, alas! I shall do—instead of delightfully coherent passages I should probably find palsied stammerings which even to the most well-wishing reader could barely hint at what, before I took pen in hand, I supposed myself able to express. That was how I felt when I wrote it, when I revised it; in an hour’s time I shall feel so again; but at this moment each sentence that I extorted from myself flows, not into my own mind, but into the minds of thousands on thousands of readers who have just woken up and opened Le Figaro.

Marcel Proust on Art and Literature translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner 1957, (from Contre Sainte-Beuve) p. 61.

Posted 12/14/2014 8:35am by Eugene Wyatt.

Beauty is not like a ne plus ultra of what we suppose beautiful, an abstract type of the beauty before our eyes; on the contrary, it is something novel and, until life puts it before our eyes, unimaginable.

Marcel Proust on Art and Literature translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner 1957, p. 45 (from Contre Sainte-Beuve).

La beauté n’est pas comme un superlatif de ce que nous imaginons, comme un type abstrait que nous avons devant les yeux, mais au contraire un type nouveau, impossible à imaginer que la réalité nous présente.

Contre Sainte-Beuve Marcel Proust 1908 p. 70.

Beauty is not a superlative that we imagine, like an abstract concept before our eyes, but on the contrary something new, impossible to imagine, until reality presents us with it.

My translation.

Posted 12/10/2014 6:05am by Eugene Wyatt.

There are times, when a morning of spring has strayed into winter and the clapper of the man who sells goat’s-milk sends a purer note than a Sicilian shepherd’s flute into the blue sky, when I would like to cross the snows of the Saint Gothard and come down into a flowering Italy. And already, touched by this morning sunbeam, I have jumped out of bed, I perform a thousand frisks and capers that I see corroborated in the looking-glass, I delightedly utter quite uninspired remarks, and I sing—for the poet is like the statue of Memnon; one ray from the rising sun is enough to make him sing.

Marcel Proust on Art and Literature translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner 1957, p. 41  (from Contre Sainte-Beuve).

Posted 12/5/2014 8:22pm by Eugene Wyatt.

These were not the thundering bells that you heard when you returned to the village - when you neared the church that, from close up, regained its great, rigid height, its slate-gray cowl dotted with black crows rearing up into the evening blue - letting fly their bursts of sound across the square ‘for the bounties of the earth’.

Marcel Proust and John Ruskin On Reading; translated by Damion Searls 2011, p. 14.

Posted 12/1/2014 7:09am by Eugene Wyatt.

Alas! I did not realise that my own lack of willpower, my delicate health, and the consequent uncertainty as to my future, weighed far more heavily on my grandmother’s mind than any little dietary indiscretion by her husband in the course of those endless perambulations, afternoon and evening, during which we used to see her handsome face passing to and fro, half raised towards the sky, its brown and wrinkled cheeks, which with age had acquired almost the purple hue of tilled fields in autumn, covered, if she were “going out,” by a half-lifted veil, while upon them either the cold or some sad reflection invariably left the drying traces of an involuntary tear.

À la recherche du temps perdu; Volume I, Du côté de chez Swann by Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright as Swann's Way 1922, page 14.

Tags: Proust
Posted 11/30/2014 8:46pm by Eugene Wyatt.

To Robert Dreyfus about Raymond Recouly, an essayist, an editor of the Figaro and a colleague there who panned Swann's Way.

“But in fact I don’t note anything. He’s the one who notes. Not once does a character of mine close a window, or wash his hands, or put on an overcoat, or say ‘How do you do.’ Indeed if there were anything new in the book it would be that, but not at all deliberately; I’m simply too lazy to write things that bore me.”

Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2002-2013.

Tags: Carter, Proust
Posted 11/30/2014 6:38am by Eugene Wyatt.

So different from the shorter sentences in Les plaisirs et les jours 1896; translated by Andrew Brown as Pleasures and Days 2004.

Here we have a sentence of 578 words and it describes rooms that the Narrator has slept-in in his life. Proust said that he attempted to pare down or make into multiple sentences any utterance that was not suitable to be expressed singularly; one criteria would be that a single sentence would have to be about a single subject.

His verbosity, if you will, permits him to stylistically layer the subject of the sentence (or the object) from different points of view expanding on its meaning; he speaks of rooms in Winter where he made a nest in bed and then in a layered variation describes the difference in rooms of freezing weather; Proust describes rooms in Summer where the moonlight delighted the Narrator and "would throw down to the foot of my bed its enchanted ladder" then he would layer his anxiety or whatever—it could happen to any sleeper, anytime, for different causes—where "I was convinced of the hostility of the violet curtains and of the insolent indifference of a clock that chattered on at the top of its voice" until after the many sleepless hours the Narrator was rescued by habit. Yes "Habit!"

The long sentence gave Proust the ability to layer or to attach additional meanings to the subjects or objects he addressed. For styistic richness, he could interrupt a description of the subject and sub-modify a qualification (a meaning) of it, etc. as in sleeping in the summer "might be in the open air".

Supposedly the first appearance of the Proust's 'new style' is in On Reading, his preface to his translation of Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies 1906, and that was developed in Contre Sainte-Beuve, his last writing project before À la recherche.

But I had seen first one and then another of the rooms in which I had slept during my life, and in the end I would revisit them all in the long course of my waking dream: rooms in winter, where on going to bed I would at once bury my head in a nest woven out of the most diverse materials—the corner of my pillow, the top of my blankets, a piece of a shawl, the edge of my bed, and a copy of a children’s paper—which I had contrived to cement together, bird-fashion, by dint of continuous pressure; rooms where, in freezing weather, I would enjoy the satisfaction of being shut in from the outer world (like the sea-swallow which builds at the end of a dark tunnel and is kept warm by the surrounding earth), and where, the fire keeping in all night, I would sleep wrapped up, as it were, in a great cloak of snug and smoky air, shot with the glow of the logs intermittently breaking out again in flame, a sort of alcove without walls, a cave of warmth dug out of the heart of the room itself, a zone of heat whose boundaries were constantly shifting and altering in temperature as gusts of air traversed them to strike freshly upon my face, from the corners of the room or from parts near the window or far from the fireplace which had therefore remained cold;—or rooms in summer, where I would delight to feel myself a part of the warm night, where the moonlight striking upon the half-opened shutters would throw down to the foot of my bed its enchanted ladder, where I would fall asleep, as it might be in the open air, like a titmouse which the breeze gently rocks at the tip of a sunbeam;—or sometimes the Louis XVI room, so cheerful that I never felt too miserable in it, even on my first night, and in which the slender columns that lightly supported its ceiling drew so gracefully apart to reveal and frame the site of the bed;—sometimes, again, the little room with the high ceiling, hollowed in the form of a pyramid out of two separate storeys, and partly walled with mahogany, in which from the first moment, mentally poisoned by the unfamiliar scent of vetiver, I was convinced of the hostility of the violet curtains and of the insolent indifference of a clock that chattered on at the top of its voice as though I were not there; in which a strange and pitiless rectangular cheval-glass, standing across one corner of the room, carved out for itself a site I had not looked to find tenanted in the soft plenitude of my normal field of vision; in which my mind, striving for hours on end to break away from its moorings, to stretch upwards so as to take on the exact shape of the room and to reach to the topmost height of its gigantic funnel, had endured many a painful night as I lay stretched out in bed, my eyes staring upwards, my ears straining, my nostrils flaring, my heart beating; until habit had changed the colour of the curtains, silenced the clock, brought an expression of pity to the cruel, slanting face of the glass, disguised or even completely dispelled the scent of vetiver, and appreciably reduced the apparent loftiness of the ceiling.

À la recherche du temps perdu; Volume I, Du côté de chez Swann by Marcel Proust 1913; translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright as Swann's Way 1922, page 7.

Tags: Proust
Posted 11/27/2014 6:25pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Proust was indisposed and could not attend.

He had been eager to hear the outstanding French string quartet, led by the brilliant violinist Lucien Capet, play late Beethoven quartets. As Proust developed his novel, and particularly the new character Vinteuil, his passion for music grew even stronger.

p. 524.

In February the Capet Quartet appeared in Paris again and a healthier Proust enjoyed them playing two of the Late Quartets; however Beethoven never heard those works performed as he was deaf when he composed them.

During the winter and spring Proust attended a number of concerts. Always a passionate lover of music, he now concentrated on creating for his fictional composer works that inspired Swann and the Narrator to meditate on the creative imagination. This determination to capture the essence of music gave Proust reason to attend concerts more frequently, providing an enriching supplement to his evenings spent bent over the theatrophone. On February 26, (1913). Proust and (Georges de) Lauris attended a concert by the Capet String Quartet at the Salle Pleyel. The program included works that from this time on he would lose no opportunity to hear: two of Beethoven's Late Quartets and the Grosse Fugue.

Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2002-2013, p. 536.

Tags: Carter, Proust
Posted 11/27/2014 4:50pm by Eugene Wyatt.

On June 4, (1912) the day the Figaro published another excerpt from Swann's Way, "Rayon de soleil sur le balcon" (A ray of sunlight on the balcony), Proust called for Albaret to drive him to the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery to see the exhibition "Venice and Claude Monet." Proust had been unable to resist twenty-nine paintings of Venice by the master he admired more than any contemporary painter.

Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2002-2013, p. 515.

Tags: Carter, Proust
Posted 11/26/2014 6:33am by Eugene Wyatt.

Proust had been disappointed by the audience as well as by Debussy's work (Le Martyre de Saint-Sebastien, based on a story by Gabriele D'Annunzio). His remark in a letter to Mme Straus echoes the satirical portraits of society people he had begun to write about. The people he had glimpsed at the performance "seemed to have greatly deteriorated. Even the nicest of them have taken to intelligence and alas, with society people—I don't know how they manage it—intelligence is simply a multiplier of stupidity, raising it to an unbelievable power and intensity. The only possible ones are those who have had the wit to remain stupid."

Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2002-2013, p. 500.

Tags: Carter, Proust
Posted 11/25/2014 9:35pm by Eugene Wyatt.

In his critical remarks about Sainte-Beuve, Proust is writing as himself in a fictional situation, imagining a conversation with his mother before she died. This invented setting for a real person (Proust) commenting on another real person and his work (Sainte-Beuve) served as the incubator for the emergence of the Narrator's full voice. In the Sainte-Beuve passages describing involuntary memory, Proust began to transmute his lived experience and his invented ones into the Narrator's life. We can clearly see the transition from essayist to novelist in many of the notations from Le Carnet de 1908. A strange but remarkably fecund symbiosis is being created in which Proust is himself and not himself as the Narrator. By the time he had finished, Proust had created what is perhaps the richest narrative voice in literature, a voice that speaks both as child and as man, as actor and as subject, and that weaves effortlessly between the present, past, and future.*

P. 461

The symbiosis between Proust and his Narrator can be explained by the hybrid origin of the story. Having begun as an essay in which the "I" was himself, as the text veered more and more toward fiction, the "I" telling the story became both its generator and its subject, like a Siamese twin, intimately linked to Proust's body and soul and yet other.

Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2002-2013, p. 474.

*There are other aspects of this voice. For example, the Narrator as a man reflects on his childhood and his present. Sometimes when he considers the past from the viewpoint of the present, he draws certain conclusions that are corrections of what he thought earlier, but then may add, "however, as I was to learn later...." After the Narrator discovers his vocation as an artist, he reflects on the work he is about to create in relation to the story which we have just read.

Tags: Carter, Proust
Posted 11/21/2014 8:35pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Proust was asked to write a piece for Le Figaro that appeared on Februray 1, 1907 as he knew the murder/suicide victims, the mother and the son.

Many friends wrote to express their admiration for "Sentiments filiaux" (d'un parricide). To close friends Marcel expressed serious doubts about his talent. He did not trust this new voice. He wrote to Lucien: "I really feel I have" no talent. Between his translation of Sesame and "Sentiments filiaux," he had not written a line...

P. 421.

Jacques-Emile Blanche (who painted a portrait of Proust as a young dandy in 'smoking' that is reproduced on Carter's biography) sent congratulations but expressed some doubts about Proust's new style. A sentence that ran for eighteen lines had caught Blanche's attention. Proust, perhaps relishing the opportunity to hint that Blanche had really not paid close attention, replied that the article contained sentences of approximately thirty lines. And that in "On Reading" some occupied eighty lines.

Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2002-2013, p. 422.

Tags: Carter, Proust
Posted 11/21/2014 6:05pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Proust's friends loved it and he hated it.

Her (Anna de Noailles) words of praise had moved him so that he was "in a state of shame and confusion beyond words, enhanced by the Beaunier piece which I strongly suspect you dictated." Beaunier had hailed "M. Marcel Proust the incomparable translator of Ruskin," whose preface the critic found "charming, moving and often marvelous." Beaunier had taken particular delight in the style: "These long sentences, encumbered with all the details and circumstances, have a strange and delicious charm," which came, Beaunier said, from their "meticulous truth."

Writing to Mme Straus, Proust worried that his "indigestible nougat" of an essay might be dangerous for his languid friend to read and urged her to avoid it: "Don't read it, it's a failed effort and horribly wearying to read, with sentences that take up an entire page"...

Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2002-2013, p. 392

Tags: Carter, Proust
Posted 11/20/2014 5:26pm by Eugene Wyatt.

We feel quite truly that our wisdom begins where that of the author ends, and we would like to have him give us answers, when all he can do is give us desires. And these desires he can arouse in us only by making us contemplate the supreme beauty which the last effort of his art has permitted him to reach. But by a singular and, moreover, providential law of mental optics (a law which perhaps signifies that we can receive the truth from nobody, and that we must create it ourselves), that which is the end of their wisdom appears to us as but the beginning of ours, so that it is at the moment when they have told us all they could tell us that they create in us the feeling that they have told us nothing yet.

Marcel Proust On Reading Ruskin 1987; the preface, On Reading by Marcel Proust translated by Autret, Burford and Wolfe, p. 115. 

Posted 11/20/2014 2:04pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Then the last page was read, the book was finished.

I had to stop the headlong rush of my eyes and of my voice which followed noiselessly, stopping only to regain my breath in a deep sigh. Then, in order to give the tumult, too long unleashed within me to be able to calm itself, other movements to govern, I would get up, I would start walking alongside my bed, my eyes still fixed on some point one would in vain have looked for in the room or outside, for it was situated at a soul's distance only, one of those distances which are not measured in meters and leagues like the others, and which, is, besides, impossible to confuse with them when one looks at the "distant" eyes of those who are thinking "about something else."

Marcel Proust On Reading Ruskin 1987; the preface, On Reading by Marcel Proust translated by Autret, Burford and Wolfe, p. 109. 

Posted 11/18/2014 7:15am by Eugene Wyatt.

This preface, like the later drafts of Contre Sainte-Beuve, his last sketchbook before the full-scale novel, contains a narrative followed by a critical essay. In the last section of the preface and its notes, Proust makes observations about structure in Ruskin's writings. These thoughts would be important to his own slow elaboration of a structure for the Search.

Marcel Proust, A Life; William C. Carter 2002-2013 p. 390.

Posted 11/17/2014 4:40pm by Eugene Wyatt.

A distinctive aspect of Proust's mature style is its richness in presenting multiple perspectives or a string of analogies that dazzle by their aptness and their brilliance. The following humorous sketch of family life, from the preface, is an early example of this technique. In the family, someone who took the time to write a letter "was the object of a particular deference" and was told: "You have attended to your 'little correspondence,' with a smile in which there was respect, mystery, prurience, and discretion, as if this 'little correspondence' had been at the same time a state secret, a prerogative, a piece of good fortune, and an ailment." Proust's presentation of multiple views of the same object or action was to be one of several narrative strategies used in the novel to render life in its full richness. 

Marcel Proust, A Life; William C. Carter 2002-2013 p. 390.

The sketch Carter refers to is in On Reading, the preface to Sésame et des Lys 1904, translation by Marcel Proust which was originally delivered as Sesame and Lilies in 1864 as two lectures in Manchester by John Ruskin.

The sketch of family life,

The hour went by; often, long before lunch, those who were tired and had shortened their walk, had "gone by Méseglise," or those who had not gone out that morning, "having to write," began to arrive in the dining room. They would all say: "I don't want to disturb you," but began at once to come near the fire, to look at the time, to declare that lunch would not be unwelcome. He or she who had "stayed to write" was the object of a particular deference and was told: "You have attended to your little correspondence," with a smile in which there was respect, mystery, prurience, and discretion, as if this "little correspondence" had been at the same time a state secret, a prerogative, a piece of good fortune, and an ailment.

Marcel Proust On Reading Ruskin 1987; the preface, On Reading by Marcel Proust translated by Autret, Burford and Wolfe, p. 101. 

Posted 8/14/2014 4:11pm by Eugene Wyatt.

I found most of this on Le fou de Proust.

The Big Sleep, adapted from the Raymond Chandler novel by William Faulkner et al, starring Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as Vivian, directed by Howard Hawks, 1946,

Vivian : So you do get up, I was beginning to think you worked in bed like Marcel Proust.

Marlowe : Who’s he ?

Vivian : You wouldn’t know him, a French writer.

Marlowe : Come into my boudoir.


 The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler 1939, 

« Well, you do get up », she said, wrinkling her nose at the faded red settee, the two odd semi-easy chairs, the net curtains that needed laundering and the boy’s size library table with the venerable magazines on it to give the place a professional touch. « I was beginning to think perhaps you worked in bed, like Marcel Proust. »

« Who’s he ? » I put a cigarette in my mouth and stared at her. She looked a little pale and strained, but she looked like a girl who could function under a strain. « A French writer, a connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn’t know him. »

« Tut, tut, » I said. « Come into my boudoir. »

Posted 3/16/2014 8:50pm by Eugene Wyatt.

As Marcel Proust says in À la recherche du temps perdu, one of the first things one reads is the preface to a book but it was always written last and done after the work was finished. 

Posted 3/9/2014 11:31am by Eugene Wyatt.

I always have a hard time finishing one book and starting another—what should I read now—now that I've finished a tandem read of The Odessey by Homer and Ulysses by Joyce? I tend to gravitate to things I've read before and read them again...the comfort of ending one author's style and beginning another way of writing—at first seemingly foreign—is, if not traumatic, certainly somewhat immobilizing in the beginning of a new novel.

One passage that I remember from Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu is the party at the Marquise de Saint-Euverte's in Swann In Love from Swann's Way and I wanted to visit it again.


Where the lovelorn Swann climbs the staircase of the Marquise to attend the party, is repulsed by the stupidity of the society people there, sees his witty friend the Princess de Laumes and hears Vinteuil's sonata again. Vinteuil's sonata contains la petite phrase which so enraptured him when he'd first heard it with Odette and hearing it again he is reminded of the futility of his love for her.

I thought of art, I thought of Diane R. Leonard's Ruskin and the Cathedral of Lost Souls in The Cambridge Companion to Proust, 2001 edited by Richard Bales where she talks of impressions as a way to appreciate art and of Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation1964. 

I saw Susan Sontag in the 1980's exiting the movie I had just seen, Floating Weeds, 1959 by Yasujiro Ozu. Yoko, a friend and painter, pointed her out to me heading toward First Avenue in the company of a young man: she had the shock of a gray forelock in her dark hair—God, she was beautiful—or that was my interpretation.

Or was that my impression? Things get murky with some definitions: they have a tendency to overlap their meanings depending on who you read.

A Susan Sontag disclaimer to focus what she says,

Of course, I don't mean interpretation in the broadest sense, the sense in which Nietzsche (rightly) says, "There are no facts, only interpretations." By interpretation, I mean here a conscious act of the mind which illustrates a certain code, certain "rules" of interpretation.

And Diane R. Leonard says,

Ironically, Proust himself is in a similar situation here: despite the fact that he is reading (Stones Of Venice) inside St Mark's, he is reading the text of Ruskin (interpreting), rather than the figural language of the mosaics. Moreover, the inscriptions on the mosaics prevent him from having that innocence of the eye indispensable to the truth of impression.

Both Sontag and Leonard want that innocence of the eye indispensable to the truth of impression when approaching a work of art. A 3rd grader has that eye but one must school one's self into it if one is an adult or even a learned scholar and unlearn a little.

Art dealer Michael Findlay in The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty, 2012 cries out vociferously in his book against the audio guides in museums and the people who are consuming a curator's interpretation rather than looking at art with an innocent eye and forming their own impressions.

But what about Swann, Proust's character, when he hears the sonata again? Why do I like this passage? Part of the answer is I like Swann; he is who I'd like to be, if one can so wish of a fictional creation. He is wealthy, he gets all the girls, he is socially accepted by the most "fashionable" in Parisian society, he is knowledgeable about art and is writing a piece on Vermeer and he falls in love; he is a sensuous man.

Part of the answer too is that Proust writes about art, about Swann's views of Vinteuil's sonata, about la petite phrase, and that interests me. Another part of the answer is that Swann is flawed and flawed about his considerations of art. He compares people he meets to paintings, he doesn't take his acquaintances as they are. He interprets them. In this respect, as much as I wouldn't like to be Swann, to Proust's credit, he's real.

And another part of the answer is I don't know why I like this passage—perhaps it's the silence of it—that I will always think of it is to Proust's credit too.

And Diane R. Leonard again,

"(Proust) thus puts into practice an idea that (John) Ruskin himself had elaborated in Sesame and Lilies:

And be sure also, if the author is worth anything, that you will not get at his meaning all at once ... Not that he does not say what he means, and in strong words too; but he cannot say it all; and what is more strange, will not, but in a hidden way and in parables ... I cannot quite see the reason of this, nor analyse that cruel reticence in the breasts of wise men which makes them always hide their deeper thought. They do not give it you by way of help, but of reward; and will make themselves sure that you deserve it before they allow you to reach it ... 

Apparently Proust was struck by this passage, for he comments on it in a footnote, observing that a beautiful book is characterised by ' ... sa noble atmosphere de silence, ce merveilleux vernis qui brille du sacrifice de tout ce qu'on n'a pas dit ... '(Sesame, p. 85, n. i) ' ... its noble atmosphere of silence, that marvellous varnish which shines with the sacrifice of all that has not been said ...'"

Notwithstanding, I like what I see. Overall I like Proust's style; I like his long sinuous sentences. I like his freshness of figural language but I'm a little bored with his numerous people in sickness similes; one knows Proust was ill and because of that he makes use of illness to make a reader see; however, this fault becomes a method of seeing, by contrast, what one likes in À la recherche du temps perdu: Swann listening to Vinteuil's sonata at the Marquise de Saint-Euverte's party,

As though the musicians were not nearly so much playing the little phrase as performing the rites on which it insisted before it would consent to appear, as proceeding to utter the incantations necessary to procure, and to prolong for a few moments, the miracle of its apparition, Swann, who was no more able now to see it than if it had belonged to a world of ultra-violet light, who experienced something like the refreshing sense of a metamorphosis in the momentary blindness with which he had been struck as he approached it, Swann felt that it was present, like a protective goddess, a confidant of his love, who, so as to be able to come to him through the crowd, and to draw him aside to speak to him, had disguised herself in this sweeping cloak of sound.

Marcel Proust translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.

Posted 1/15/2014 6:24pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Wednesday I'm driving to the tannery in Quakertown, Pennsylvania; it will take me about 2 hours one-way. I'm taking 16 Correidale/Saxon Merino sheep hides from the slaughterhouse that have been salted to dry them. There, I will pick up the 18 tanned sheepskins that I dropped off 3 weeks ago.

During the past year, during these multi-hour rides, I had been listening to Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu. But what will I listen to now that I've finished the 4500 page novel? I like the first-person narration of À la recherche...; the "I" seems more lifelike and to interfere less than in a story told by an omniscient—or not—third-person narrator of the protagonist being called a "he" or a "she". But it's the author speaking no matter his or her convention of narration. 

As valuable as it was, I want to read or listen to a book more modern than the 1913-1922 À la recherche... and I want it to be the story of an adult. I'll look to see what I have in my Audible.com library...

The sheepskins will be welcome at the stand; we'd sold the best ones over the holidays. We should sell several new ones this Saturday if the weather is dry; yet the forecast has been erratic: on Monday the forecast for Saturday was sunny, then it was to be rainy on Tuesday; but Wednesday's forecast for Saturday in New York is sun again.

A customer told me, "The percentage of rain forecast is really the probability that it will rain in that percentage of the forecast area."

Hmm...aces and eights.

Posted 12/30/2013 8:44pm by Eugene Wyatt.

To commemorate the 100 years since the publication of Swann's Way the first volume of Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu.

...as though men spend their lives perched upon living stilts which never cease to grow until sometimes they become taller than church steeples, making it in the end both difficult and perilous for them to walk and raising them to an eminence from which suddenly they fall. And I was terrified by the thought that the stilts beneath my own feet might already have reached that height...

Marcel Proust, Time Regained, the Modern Library Edition translated by Mayor, Kilmartin and Enright p. 531


What's curious about this passage—the fragments quoted above are from the last sentences of the novel spanning about 4,500 pages—is this is the first time that Proust has engaged in any type of fantasy, here exemplified by living stilts which never cease to grow: a surreal conceit in metaphor (rare in Proust) to end the book going from the old and tottery Duke de Guermantes to a stumbling 83 year old archbishop, to proud men falling from their church-steeple high stilts and to the terrified Narrator who thinks that he may be one of them. (All are shaky on their real or metaphorical feet.)


Yesterday I posted this quote about living stilts from Time Regained the seventh and final volume of Marcel Proust's novel and I thanked my fellow readers for the discipline they provided me to read it and to post at least one comment a day (my personal requirement) to the Goodreads discussion list that followed in tandem the reading.

The year is over; the novel was read in segments of ~90 pages a week. I read it mostly in English but other readers posted quotations of the work in French, the language they read it in.

I wonder what I learned last year, if anything at all. I wonder what I'll read next.

Posted 11/19/2013 7:40pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Marcus wrote: Very tender, I agree Eugene. I have LOL'd sometimes as well...

Humor as well as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but what made Botticelli laugh is probably not what would make us laugh today, yet his Zipporah is still as beautiful as the day he painted it. Humor is more temporally affected than beauty as we see. That Botticelli attempted humor, if he did, is also a feather in his cap, and Proust attempting to be funny is not "clumsy", as I had said, but in many ways laudable no matter if he succeeds with you and fails with me, but the attempt at humor is one of valor in the dark days that began in 1914, not that earlier days were not as dark, but we are still in the shadow of those days that began with the Great War, and worse, the children are blind, as always.

I chuckled once, but as I didn't remember where and about what, I said "never". If I'd laughed and said 10 or 20 moments were LOL or "hilarious" it would amount to a similar sum compared to the moments we've read in 3903 pages including this weeks reading. Yes, humor is 'in the eyes of the beholder'.

Where I see Proust's humor is in the preposterousness of the entire novel and its characters. They are sad and all defective in one way or another but a writer who takes aesthetics, learning writing, social relations/personalities, social history, etc. as his subjects and peoples it with the ridiculous and convenient cast he has chosen is not only funny but witty. So, it's not that I'm a humorless person, Marcus, I just laugh at different parts. 

Posted 10/27/2013 7:21pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Early on when I began reading In Search of Lost Time, I formed a question, one of several, with which I would read the novel. What I wanted to better understand was the relation of art to jealousy (both major themes in the work) and here Proust, in the voice of the reflective Narrator, points to an answer for me or I should say a working answer as that will leave me with "endless suppositions" which is what I want reading a work of art.

It is one of the faculties of jealousy to reveal to us the extent to which the reality of external facts and the sentiments of the heart are an unknown element which lends itself to endless suppositions. ML p. 699

When one encounters a chef-d'oeuvre (I think of the portraits of Mme Cézanne in the Met) one has new-found suppositions that are different from the suppositions we entertained at a previous encounter and will be different from suppositions we are handed at the next visit, thinking of Cézanne at the Met, or the next encounter with Proust's words when we open the pages of ISOLT again.

Art, and I mean good art, is like jealousy—it is living—always changing us in front of it, as Albertine changes for her lover and as does the Narrator after her departure, in those "endless suppositions". 

..."Mademoiselle Albertine has gone" was like an allegory of countless other separations. For very often, in order that we may discover that we are in love, perhaps indeed in order that we may fall in love, the day of separation must first have come. ML p. 683

Posted 10/9/2013 5:24am by Eugene Wyatt.

Having given up a year of my time to read Proust's In Search of Lost Time, a year that marks the publication 100 years ago of the first volume, Swann's Way, here is a comment on the reading of The Captive, volume 5, posted to a discussion list provided by Goodreads.

Ah, the music that we hear in the different voices that sing this tale. Here the Narrator--his reflective self comments on his younger active self--explains the duplicity required by being in love.

If the reader has no more than a faint impression of these, that is because, as narrator, I expose my feelings to him at the same time as I repeat my words. But if I concealed the former and he were acquainted only with the latter, my actions, so little in keeping with them, would so often give him the impression of strange reversals that he would think me more or less mad. ML p. 467

On p. 461 we have 1st person direct conversation with Albertine that becomes a more mature reflection (a different voice) about his younger feelings of love and his feigned actions or his 1st person words that we read until we come to p. 471 where again direct 1st person conversation ensues between Albertine and his younger self. We have changes of key or the tonal structures differ in the writing.

The varied stories are simple: the Narrator/Albertine, Charlus/Morel, Swann/Odette; the complexity, for which Proust is heralded no matter the type of narration, is in the drawing of characters, for example:

Besides, for a long time past, my constant anxieties, my fear of telling Albertine that I loved her, all this corresponded to another hypothesis which explained far more things and had also this to be said for it, that if one adopted the first hypothesis the second became more probable, for by allowing myself to give way to effusions of tenderness for Albertine, I obtained from her nothing but irritation (to which moreover she assigned a different cause). ML p. 466

And the complexity, how the character is drawn, is syntactical within the sentence and between them, to the paragraph, to the passage and to the volume even. Wagner is mentioned more in these pages than any other composer and there is a reason for that, not for his leitmotifs and not for any specific musical greatness for which he is celebrated, but for his decision to call, and perform four of his works in sequence, The Ring. That is what I read when I read ISOLT--The Ring--and I not only hear the music of the words but I also hear the music between them, between the passages, between the words and actions of the characters who continue and I hear their voices sing even when they're silent. Proust calls his beginning Overture, we wait for his Götterdämmerung.

The scale and scope of the story is epic. It follows the struggles of gods, heroes, and several mythical creatures over the eponymous magic Ring that grants domination over the entire world. The drama and intrigue continue through three generations of protagonists, until the final cataclysm at the end of Götterdämmerung. More on Der Ring des Nibelungen:


Posted 7/30/2013 6:23pm by Eugene Wyatt.

A comment to the Goodreads Proust discussion

K... wrote: I would not describe Proust's style as "conversational" in spite of the fair amount of dialogue...

There are two basic types of language: written and spoken. Both use words, both convey meaning, etc. but the difference between them is in written language, the user has the ability to reflect, to change, to edit, etc. S/he has time to rework the language uttered; however in spoken language, the time element is not there in order to reflect, to edit, etc.; spoken language is impromptu, ad hoc or momentary.

How then does one 'edit' or qualify spoken language at the time of speaking? By using parentheticals or by being digressive, etc. You will find that speakers do this when they speak of everyday or extraordinary matters, even you, even me.

The use of parentheticals and of being digressive is called using a "conversational" style when writing; both of which, Proust takes great advantage in his written prose. A conversational style has nothing to do with the writer's use of dialogue. Proust writes conversationally.

and: For me his writing is very lyrical...

Not for me. Legrandin's style is "lyrical"; listen to him, listen to the Narrator mock him: his language is old fashioned, it has become cliched, it sounds like it was uttered by Chateaubriand, as great as he was, he was. Legrandin's language hasn't read Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé et al.

Proust is writing another kind of music, a new and fresh music, a semantic music, a music of rhetoric. What you hear--because it is new--at first, you have difficulty appreciating. He makes use of far-reaching similes, he is rarely metaphorical, he makes a music of the juxtaposition of his parentheticals, of his digressions; he violates the rules of traditional musicology as applied to writing—he is a Debussy of prose. With Proust we have a new lyricism. 

Posted 5/26/2013 2:43pm by Eugene Wyatt.

A comment to the Goodreads discussion list, 2013: The Year of Reading Proust,

Phillida quotes Proust writing as Norpois: But we must not be afraid to enlighten public opinion; and if a few sheep...should dash headlong into the water, it would be well to point out to them that the water in question is troubled water, that it has been troubled by an agency not within our borders, in order to conceal the dangers lurking in its depths.

Having 850 Saxon Merino sheep I must tell you that sheep are good swimmers, as most animals are, they dog paddle keeping their heads above water moving their legs as if they were running. 

I had a group of ewes who had become temporarily blind from Pink Eye (a viral infection), their corneas had clouded over, a tetracycline salve administered to the eye will help them recover faster. Objects were but shadows to them at best. They were quartered next to a pond and spooked into it by my Kelpie, Poem, a herding dog. Four ewes swam to the other side but one continued to swim in circles in the middle of the pond unable to see the bank. The water temperature was about 35F as the ice had just melted from the pond in late February; my lifeguarding abilities were of no use, having been certified at 16 by the American Red Cross, the water was too cold to enter. I felt helpless. I watched her, waiting for her to sink: round and round she swam, 15 minutes or longer, but with each revolution she got closer to dry ground, finally she got close enough for me to lasso her with a halter. 

I drug her up through brush—she was exhausted—I dried her off with towels and let her rest then go join her mates. She had a good swim, recovered her sight and had a lamb in the Spring.

Norpois is talking to Bloch about the Dreyfus case in the quote above. From my studies of rhetoric, long before I'd read Proust or about him, I see this is an example of Proust's wit: Bloch almost always speaks in a mock Homeric way; he imitates, or imagines, classical Greek rhetoric using adjectives to modify nouns in the Homeric fashion. To see the wit of this passage you must understand that Norpois speaks to Bloch with real classical Greek rhetoric, as if spoken by Giorgias (485–380 BC), a sophistry as much to explicate as to conceal, that he honed while speaking in his career as an ambassador. 

Proust knew the classical rhetoric that was taught in French schools of the 19th century. 

Posted 5/21/2013 8:09pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Another reading of Marcel Proust,


Proust cuts between speaking voices in the salon scene; they are different and appear to be what the Narrator overhears. He comments on the speakers and what they say as the present Narrator and as the reflective Narrator, but in this case that could be Marcel Proust himself.

About Mme de Marsantes,

Possibly the reflective Narrator or Proust is speaking:

Being a great lady means playing the great lady, that is to say, to a certain extent, playing at simplicity. It is a pastime which costs a great deal of money, all the more because simplicity charms people only on condition that they know that you are capable of not living simply, that is to say that you are very rich.

The present Narrator is speaking: 

Someone said to me afterwards, when I mentioned that I had seen her: "You saw of course that she must have been lovely as a young woman."

Possibly the reflective Narrator or Proust is speaking:

But true beauty is so individual, so novel always, that one does not recognize it as beauty.

The present Narrator is speaking: 

I said to myself that afternoon only that she had a tiny nose, very blue eyes, a long neck and a sad expression. Modern Library p. 340

The verbal textures, the way people speak, alternate between speakers and between Narrators: I find these changes beautiful, Proust is to be lauded for them—how interesting, how fresh, how... And what he has to say about beauty is as contemporary now as it was when it was written 100 or so years ago, beauty is "...individual...novel...one does not recognize it...", another reason I enjoy reading In Search of Lost Time

Tags: Proust
Posted 5/19/2013 2:16pm by Eugene Wyatt.

It's no excuse, and I'm not he, Norman Mailer said that he was reading, not writing. I have been reading In Search of Lost Time, with others in a Goodreads discussion group, about 100 pages a week taking an entire year, and consequently by coincidence...

A comment to the group on this week's reading:

Marcel Proust wrote: The streets belong to everybody, I repeated to myself, giving a different meaning to the words, and marveling that indeed in the crowded street, often soaked with rain, which gave it a precious lustre like the streets, at times, in the old towns of Italy, the Duchesse de Guermantes mingled with the public life of the world moments of her own secret life, showing herself thus in all her mystery to everyone, jostled by all and sundry, with the splendid gratuitousness of the greatest works of art. Modern Library p. 190, vol. 3

This is a sentence I find beautiful; this is one of the several reasons that I began reading ISOLT (In Search of Lost Time) several years ago and it is one of the many, many syntactical marvels that are to be found in the novel. Let me attempt to tell you of some of its beauty for me.

The subject is "I", the main verb is "repeated" and the object is "The streets belong to everybody" which precedes them. All that follows would be qualifiers of the object or of the verb. I will not bore myself or you too much, I will simplify the exact and correct terms that a grammarian would use in her description of the sentence--in truth I don't know all the terms--and besides they are not required by me to appreciate the sentence's beauty. One intuits language, one intuits beauty.

...marveling that indeed in the crowded street, often soaked with rain, which gave it a precious lustre like the streets, at times, in the old towns of Italy, the Duchesse de Guermantes mingled with the public life of the world moments of her own secret life...

Within this qualifying utterance, telling what he did: "marveling", when he "repeated" the object, Proust has the Narrator further qualify it: "often soaked with rain" and he qualifies that by "...which gave it a precious lustre like the streets, at times, in the old towns of Italy..." and qualifies that likening simile by interrupting himself with "at times" before he gets to what he marveled at, "...the Duchesse de Guermantes mingled with the public life of the world moments of her own secret life...". And the qualifications continue...

This is why I like to read Proust and when you parse the writing like this you understand what Jean Milly says in Le phrase de Proust that the structure of ISOLT approximates the structure of his sentences. 


The qualifications, or parentheticals that he uses, permit Proust to elaborate on character or situation in great detail, and greater but minute detail, for which he is famed as a verbal stylist; they enable Proust antithetical formulations: "...with the public life of the world moments of her own secret life..." that we find in subjects made more real to us or more lovely as in lyrical constructions that have a freshness of song to them by juxtaposing contrasting clauses, phrases or words as in "...with the splendid gratuitousness of the greatest works of art." 

Tags: Proust
Posted 2/14/2013 1:33pm by Eugene Wyatt.

A post to the Goodreads discussion list 2013: The Year of Reading Proust. 

An instructor at the Arts Students League, begun in New York in 1875, told the painting class I was in that "Picasso proves that you don't have to be a nice guy to be a great artist." and we could say something similar of one of Proust's characters that, 'You don't have to be a nice guy to have an aesthetic experience,' when describing M. Charles Swann.

Aesthetic is defined by Merriam-Webster: "of, relating to, or dealing with aesthetics or the beautiful" as in aesthetic theories or beliefs. Foregoing the Greek root, let's talk of a more homey word, the beautiful. I read Proust is for the beauty of his sentences and Proust uses many of them when he describes the varied inner-workings of Swann as he listens to "the little phrase" of Vinteuil's sonata. A sentence fragment describes Swann and music at Mme. Saint-Euverte's party:

"(Swann)...who experienced something like the refreshing sense of a metamorphosis in the momentary blindness with which he had been struck as he approached it, Swann felt that it was present, like a protective goddess, a confidant of his love, who, so as to be able to come to him through the crowd, and to draw him aside to speak to him, had disguised herself in this sweeping cloak of sound." Moncrieff

This is Proust's version of figuralism http://bit.ly/11IWXjh (eyes wide shut K ;-) that comes from Ruskin's adaption of it; it is about the experience of beauty and it is so beautifully written. On the other hand we have Jim Everett saying, "To write about Proust’s aesthetics is necessarily to contradict Proust’s intentions. For him, art begins where rational explanation ends." in The Proust Reader http://bit.ly/VgIgkU.

The views are opposed and I believe them both as did Proust, I suspect.


February 15, 2013 Marcel Proust and Swann's Way: 100th Anniversary opens at the Morgan; I'm hoping that there will be translations in English or at least printed transcriptions of his hand-written drafts, complete with additions and crossings out, in French to examine his writing/editing process. Nick provided BnF notebook transcripts in another discussion but I found Proust's hand hard to read. 

Posted 2/12/2013 2:53am by Eugene Wyatt.

A post to the Goodreads discussion list 2013: The Year of Reading Proust in which over the year we read as a group about 60 pages a week and discuss it or not. There are now over 1000 members worldwide.

Almost three years ago I began reading Proust for his sentences; I still read him for his sentences. Jeremy Eichler, the Boston Globe music critic, writes in The Proust Project edited by André Aciman, "His long spiraling sentences unspool in the mind the way a warm sinuous melody by Brahms might unspool in the air.

Swann on the little phrase from Vinteuil's fictive sonata:

Of those sorrows of which it used to speak to him and which, without being affected by them, he had seen it carry along with it, smiling, in its rapid and sinuous course, of those sorrows which had now become his own, without his having any hope of ever being free of them, it seemed to say to him as it had once said of his happiness: "What does it matter? It means nothing." 

Swann's Way, the Lydia Davis translation of Marcel Proust, p. 361 

Posted 6/21/2012 2:14pm by Eugene Wyatt.

These sentences struck me, listening to Neville Jason's new unabridged recording of The Guermantes Way from Audible.com, as I drove to the tannery in Pennsylvania.

Or, étant alors à ce moment-là ce buveur, tout d’un coup, le cherchant dans la glace, je l’aperçus, hideux, inconnu, qui me regardait. La joie de l’ivresse était plus forte que le dégoût; par gaîté ou bravade, je lui souris et en même temps il me souriait. Et je me sentais tellement sous l’empire éphémère et puissant de la minute où les sensations sont si fortes que je ne sais si ma seule tristesse ne fut pas de penser que, le moi affreux que je venais d’apercevoir, c’était peut-être son dernier jour et que je ne rencontrerais plus jamais cet étranger dans le cours de ma vie.

Le Côté de Guermantes, Tome 3 de À la Recherche du temps perdu, Marcel Proust, 1920.

Being then myself at this moment the said drinker, suddenly, looking for him in the glass, I caught sight of him, hideous, a stranger, who was staring at me. The joy of intoxication was stronger than my disgust; from gaiety or bravado I smiled at him, and simultaneously he smiled back at me. And I felt myself so much under the ephemeral and potent sway of the minute in which our sensations are so strong, that I am not sure whether my sole regret was not at the thought that this hideous self of whom I had just caught sight in the glass was perhaps there for the last time on earth, and that I should never meet the stranger again in the whole course of my life.

The Guermantes Way, Volume 3 of Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust. Translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, 1925.

Tags: Proust
Posted 1/9/2012 5:12pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Symptom no. 2:
That we are unable to write after reading a good book

This may seem a narrowly professional consideration, but it has wider relevance if one imagines that a good book might also stop us from thinking ourselves, because it would strike us as so perfect, as so inherently superior to anything our own minds could come up with. In short, a good book might silence us.

Reading Proust nearly silenced Virginia Woolf. She loved his novel, but loved it rather too much. There wasn't enough wrong with it—a crushing recognition when one considers Walter Benjamin's assessment of why people become writers: because they are unable to find a book already written that they are completely happy with. And the difficulty for Virginia was that, for a time at least, she thought she had found one.

Marcel and Virginia

A short story

Virginia Woolf first mentioned Proust in a letter she wrote to Roger Fry in the autumn of 1919. He was in France, she was in Richmond, where the weather was foggy and the garden in bad shape, and she casually asked him whether he might bring her back a copy of Swann's Way on his return.

It was 1922 before she next mentioned Proust. She had turned forty and, despite the entreaty to Fry, still hadn't read anything of Proust's work, though in a letter to E. M. Forster, she revealed that others in the vicinity "were being more diligent. "Everyone is reading Proust. I sit silent and hear their reports. It seems to be a tremendous experience," she explained, though appeared to be procrastinating out of a fear of being overwhelmed by something in the novel, an object she referred to more as if it were a swamp than hundreds of bits of paper stuck together -with thread and glue: "I'm shivering on the brink, and waiting to be submerged with a horrid sort of notion that I shall go down and down and down and perhaps never come up again."

She took the plunge nevertheless, and the problems started. As she told Roger Fry: "Proust so titillates my own desire for expression that I can hardly set out the sentence. Oh if I could write like that! I cry. And at the moment such is the astonishing vibration and saturation that he procures—there's something sexual in it—that I feel I can write like that, and seize my pen and then I can't write like that."

In what sounded like a celebration of In Search of Lost Time, but was in fact a far darker verdict on her future as a writer, she told Fry: "My great adventure is really Proust. Well—what remains to be written after that? . . . How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped—and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp."

In spite of the gasping, Woolf realized that Mrs. Dalloway still remained to be written, after which she allowed herself a brief burst of elation at the thought that she might have produced some-thing decent. "I wonder if this time I have achieved something?" she asked herself in her diary, but the pleasure was short-lived: "Well, nothing anyhow compared with Proust, in whom I am embedded now. The thing about Proust is his combination of the utmost sensibility with the utmost tenacity. He searches out these butterfly shades to the last grain. He is as tough as catgut and as evanescent as a butterfly's bloom. And he will I suppose both influence me and make me out of temper with every sentence of my own."


However, any bad mood she was in was liable to take a dramatic plunge for the worse after the briefest contact with the Frenchman. The diary entry continued: "Take up Proust after dinner and put him down. This is the worst time of all. It makes me suicidal. Nothing seems left to do. All seems insipid and worthless."

Nevertheless, she didn't yet commit suicide, though did take the wise step of ceasing to read Proust, and was therefore able to write a few more books whose sentences were neither insipid nor worthless. Then, in 1934, when she was working on The Years, there was a sign that she had at last freed herself from Proust's shadow. She told Ethel Smyth that she had picked up In Search of Lost Time again, "which is of course so magnificent that I can't write myself within its arc. For years I've put off finishing it; but now, thinking I may die one of these years, I've returned, and let my own scribble do what it likes. Lord what a hopeless bad book mine will be!"

The tone suggests that Woolf had at last made her peace with Proust. He could have his terrain, she had hers to scribble in. The path from depression and self-loathing to cheerful defiance suggested a gradual recognition that one person's achievements did not have to invalidate another's, that there would always be something left to do even if it momentarily appeared otherwise. Proust might have expressed many things well, but independent thought and the history of the novel had not come to a halt with him. His book did not have to be followed by silence; there was still space for the scribbling of others, for Mrs. Dalloway, The Common Reader, A Room of One's Own, and in particular, there was space for what these books symbolized in this context—perceptions of one's own.

How Proust Can Change Your Life Alain de Botton 1997 Pantheon

Posted 9/28/2011 7:20pm by Eugene Wyatt.

It was impossible for me to thank my father; what he called my sentimentality would have exasperated him. I stood there, not daring to move; he was still confronting us, an immense figure in his white nightshirt, crowned with the pink and violet scarf of Indian cashmere in which, since he had begun to suffer from neuralgia, he used to tie up his head, standing like Abraham in the engraving after Benozzo Gozzoli which M. Swann had given me, telling Sarah that she must tear herself away from Isaac. Many years have passed since that night. The wall of the staircase, up which I had watched the light of his candle gradually climb, was long ago demolished. And in myself, too, many things have perished which, I imagined, would last for ever, and new structures have arisen, giving birth to new sorrows and new joys which in those days I could not have foreseen, just as now the old are difficult of comprehension. It is a long time, too, since my father has been able to tell Mamma to “Go with the child.” Never again will such hours be possible for me. But of late I have been increasingly able to catch, if I listen attentively, the sound of the sobs which I had the strength to control in my father’s presence, and which broke out only when I found myself alone with Mamma. Actually, their echo has never ceased: it is only because life is now growing more and more quiet round about me that I hear them afresh, like those convent bells which are so effectively drowned during the day by the noises of the streets that one would suppose them to have been stopped for ever, until they sound out again through the silent evening air.

Du côté de chez Swann by Marcel Proust 1913, translated as Swann's Way by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922.

Tags: Proust
Posted 9/26/2011 7:54am by Eugene Wyatt.

If the weather was fair Marcel would take walks with his family Sunday after church.  From aunt Léonie's house in Combray they would take one of two directions, the shorter one they called "Swann's way" or the one following the river Vivonne, the Guermantes way.

Presently the course of the Vivonne became choked with water-plants.

At first they appeared singly, a lily, for instance, which the current, across whose path it had unfortunately grown, would never leave at rest for a moment, so that, like a ferry-boat mechanically propelled, it would drift over to one bank only to return to the other, eternally repeating its double journey.

Thrust towards the bank, its stalk would be straightened out, lengthened, strained almost to breaking-point until the current again caught it, its green moorings swung back over their anchorage and brought the unhappy plant to what might fitly be called its starting-point, since it was fated not to rest there a moment before moving off once again.

I would still find it there, on one walk after another, always in the same helpless state, suggesting certain victims of neurasthenia, among whom my grandfather would have included my aunt Léonie, who present without modification, year after year, the spectacle of their odd and unaccountable habits, which they always imagine themselves to be on the point of shaking off, but which they always retain to the end; caught in the treadmill of their own maladies and eccentricities, their futile endeavours to escape serve only to actuate its mechanism, to keep in motion the clockwork of their strange, ineluctable, fatal daily round.

Such as these was the water-lily, and also like one of those wretches whose peculiar torments, repeated indefinitely throughout eternity, aroused the curiosity of Dante, who would have inquired of them at greater length and in fuller detail from the victims themselves, had not Virgil, striding on ahead, obliged him to hasten after him at full speed, as I must hasten after my parents.

Du côté de chez Swann by Marcel Proust 1913, translated as Swann's Way by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922.

Tags: Proust
Posted 9/5/2011 9:51am by Eugene Wyatt.

To understand Nabokov in his published lectures on Proust, delivered to students he taught at Cornell University from 1948 to 1958, I had to  better understand metaphor which provided a detour from my readings of The Search for Lost Time that took me through some of Shakespeare's figures of speech and 19th century studies of them.  I would venture that more has been written about Shakespeare than any other English author; but current thinking on metaphor, and even on Shakespeare, lacks, as judged by what Amazon.com offers in print.  Many important views of Elizabethan rhetoric are in books whose copyrights have long expired and now reside in the public domain.

History is forgotten as there is not much profit in it; you find yourself, before a monitor, in the archives of Project Gutenberg, which specializes in the past, spending nothing but time.

Note: If I can find Macbeth, read rather than dramatised, on Audible.com I will buy it, and Hamlet too.  Let me experience the emotion from Shakespeare's words first-hand and not have it performed or translated for me by actors of different understandings.

Oh, and by the way, I still have sheep; they finance my literary avocations for which I am grateful.

Posted 8/18/2011 9:27am by Eugene Wyatt.

A pregnant servant maid is momentarily featured and compared to an allegorical figure in a Giotto picture, just as Mme. de Guermantes appeared in a church tapestry. It is noteworthy that throughout the whole work either the narrator or Swann often sees the physical appearance of this or that character in terms of paintings by famous old masters, many of them of the Florentine School. There is one main reason behind this method, and a secondary reason.

The main reason is of course that for Proust art was the essential reality of life. The other reason is of a more private kind: in describing young men he disguised his keen appreciation of male beauty under the masks of recognizable paintings; and in describing young females he disguised under the same masks of paintings his sexual indifference to women and his inability to describe their charm.

Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov 1980

Tags: Proust
Posted 8/15/2011 6:42am by Eugene Wyatt.

From Proust Reader by Jim Everett, August 14, 2011

But perhaps to hear music this intensely requires an altered state of mind. Swann’s barren life had eroded his ability to feel deeply. The little phrase changed that and Proust created some of his most startling metaphors to describe Swann’s new musical faculty.

There was a deep repose, a mysterious refreshment for Swann–whose eyes, although delicate interpreters of painting, whose mind, although an acute observer of manners, must bear for ever the indelible imprint of the barrenness of his life–in feeling himself transformed into a creature estranged from humanity, blinded, deprived of his logical faculty, almost a fantastic unicorn, a chimeaera-like creature conscious of the world through his hearing alone. And since he sought in the little phrase for a meaning to which his intelligence could not descend, with what a strange frenzy of intoxication did he strip bare his innermost soul of the whole armour of reason and make it pass unattended through the dark filter of sound! (I, 336-337)

As though the musicians were not nearly so much playing the little phrase as performing the rites on which it insisted before it would consent to appear, and proceeding to utter the incantations necessary to procure, and to prolong for a few moments, the miracle of its apparition, Swann, who was no more able to see it than if it had belonged to a world of ultra-violet light, and who experienced something like the refreshing sense of a metamorphosis in the momentary blindness with which he was struck as he approached it, Swann felt its presence like that of a protective goddess, a confidante of his love, who, in order to be able to come to him through the crowd and to draw him aside to speak to him, had disguised herself in this sweeping cloak of sound. And as she passed, light, soothing, murmurous as the perfume of a flower, telling him what she had to say, every word of which he closely scanned, regretful to see them fly away so fast, he made involuntarily with his lips the motion of kissing, as it went by him, the harmonious, fleeting form. (I, 494)

Swann's Way Volume I; In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, translated by Moncrieff and Kilmartin, revised by Enright. The Modern Library Edition.

Posted 8/7/2011 1:29pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Botticelli "The Trials of Moses" Detail of Zepporah (1481-82) Sistine Chapel

As she (Odette) stood there beside him, brushing his cheek with the loosened tresses of her hair, bending one knee in what was almost a dancer’s pose, so that she could lean without tiring herself over the picture, at which she was gazing, with bended head, out of those great eyes, which seemed so weary and so sullen when there was nothing to animate her, Swann was struck by her resemblance to the figure of Zipporah, Jethro’s Daughter, which is to be seen in one of the Sixtine frescoes.

Du côté de chez Swann by Marcel Proust 1913 translated as Swann's Way by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922

Posted 8/4/2011 4:07pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov 1980, pps 212-215.

Style, I remind you, is the manner of an author, the particular manner that sets him apart from any other author. ...

The style of Proust contains three especially distinctive elements:

1. A wealth of metaphorical imagery, layer upon layer of comparisons. It is through this prism that we view the beauty of Proust's work. For Proust the term metaphor is often used in a loose sense, as a synonym for the hybrid form*, or for comparison in general, because for him the simile constantly grades into the metaphor, and vice versa, with the metaphorical moment predominating.

2. A tendency to fill in and stretch out a sentence to its utmost breadth and length, to cram the sentence with a miraculous number of clauses, parenthetic phrases, subordinate clauses, sub-subordinate clauses.

3. With older novelists there used to be a very definite distinction between the descriptive passage and the dialogue part: a passage of descriptive matter and then the conversation taking over, and so on. But Proust's conversations and his descriptions merge into one another, creating a new unity where flower and leaf and insect belong to one and the same blossoming tree. ...

My mother did not appear, but with no attempt to safeguard my self-respect (which depended upon her keeping up the fiction that she had asked me to let her know the result of my search for something or other) made Francoise tell me, in so many words 'There is no answer'—words I have so often, since then, heard the janitors of public dancing-halls and the flunkeys in gambling-clubs and the like, repeat to some poor girl, who replies in bewilderment: 'What! he's said nothing? It's not possible. You did give him my letter, didn't you? Very well, I shall wait a little longer.' And just as she invariably protests that she does not need the extra gas which the janitor offers to light for her, and sits on there ... so, having declined Francoise's offer to make me some tisane or to stay beside me, I let her go off again to the servants' hall, and lay down and shut my eyes, and tried not to hear the voices of my family who were drinking their after-dinner coffee in the garden.

This episode (from Swann's Way) is followed by a description of the moonlight and silence which perfectly illustrates Proust's working of metaphors within metaphors.

The boy opens his window and sits on the foot of his bed, hardly daring to move lest he be heard by those below. (1) "Things outside seemed also fixed in mute expectation." (2) They seemed not to wish "to disturb the moonlight." (3) Now what was the moonlight doing? The moonlight duplicated every object and seemed to push it back owing to the forward extension of a shadow. What kind of a shadow? A shadow that seemed "denser and more concrete than the object" itself. (4) By doing all this the moonlight "made the whole landscape at once leaner and larger like [additional simile] a map which is unfolded and spread out" flat. (5) There was some movement: "What had to move—the leafage of some chestnut-tree, for instance—moved. But its punctilious shiver [what kind of shiver?] complete, finished to the least shade, to the least delicate detail [this fastidious shiver] did not encroach upon the rest of the scene, did not grade into it, remaining clearly limited"—since it happened to be illumined by the moon and all the rest was in shadow. (6) The silence and the distant sounds. Distant sounds behaved in relation to the surface of silence in the same way as the patch of moonlit moving leafage in relation to the velvet of the shade. The most distant sound, coming from "gardens at the far end of the town, could be distinguished with such exact 'finish,' that the impression they gave of remoteness [an additional simile follows] seemed due only to their 'pianissimo' execution [again a simile follows] like those movements on muted strings" at the Conservatory. Now those muted strings are described: "although one does not lose one single note," they come from "outside, a long way from the concert hall so that [and now we are in that concert hall] all the old subscribers, and my grandmother's sisters too, when Swann gave them his seats, used to strain their ears as if [final simile] they had caught the distant approach of an army on the march, which had not yet rounded the corner" of the street.

*Nabokov illustrates a simple simile as "the mist was like a veil"; a simple metaphor as "there was a veil of mist"; and a hybrid simile as "the veil of the mist was like the sleep of silence," combining both simile and metaphor. HB

From Marcel Proust, Bloom's Major Novelists by Harold Bloom 2003.


Noiselessly I opened the window and sat down on the foot of my bed; hardly daring to move in case they should hear me from below. Things outside seemed also fixed in mute expectation, so as not to disturb the moonlight which, duplicating each of them and throwing it back by the extension, forwards, of a shadow denser and more concrete than its substance, had made the whole landscape seem at once thinner and longer, like a map which, after being folded up, is spread out upon the ground. What had to move — a leaf of the chestnut-tree, for instance — moved. But its minute shuddering, complete, finished to the least detail and with utmost delicacy of gesture, made no discord with the rest of the scene, and yet was not merged in it, remaining clearly outlined. Exposed upon this surface of silence, which absorbed nothing from them, the most distant sounds, those which must have come from gardens at the far end of the town, could be distinguished with such exact ‘finish’ that the impression they gave of coming from a distance seemed due only to their ‘pianissimo’ execution, like those movements on muted strings so well performed by the orchestra of the Conservatoire that, although one does not lose a single note, one thinks all the same that they are being played somewhere outside, a long way from the concert hall, so that all the old subscribers, and my grandmother’s sisters too, when Swann had given them his seats, used to strain their ears as if they had caught the distant approach of an army on the march, which had not yet rounded the corner of the Rue de Trévise.

Du côté de chez Swann by Marcel Proust 1913 translated as Swann's Way by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922.

Posted 7/27/2011 6:22pm by Eugene Wyatt.

These sentences are examples of why I enjoy reading Marcel Proust: Even though his descriptions of the French aristocracy before 1914—and its twilight in the Great War—interest me, I'm not so much enthralled by what he describes as I am by how he describes it.

If I had now begun to explore, with tremors of reverence and joy the faery domain which, against all probability, had opened to me its hitherto locked approaches, this was still only in my capacity as a friend of Gilberte.

The kingdom into which I was received was itself contained within another, more mysterious still, in which Swann and his wife led their supernatural existence and towards which they made their way, after taking my hand in theirs, when they crossed the hall at the same moment as myself but in the other direction.

But soon I was to penetrate also to the heart of the Sanctuary.

For instance, Gilberte might be out when I called, but M. or Mme. Swann was at home. They would ask who had rung, and on being told that it was myself would send out to ask me to come in for a moment and talk to them, desiring me to use in one way or another, and with this or that object in view, my influence over their daughter.

I reminded myself of that letter, so complete, so convincing, which I had written to Swann only the other day, and which he had not deigned even to acknowledge.

I marvelled at the impotence of the mind, the reason and the heart to effect the least conversion, to solve a single one of those difficulties which, in the sequel, life, without one’s so much as knowing what steps it has taken, so easily unravels.

My new position as the friend of Gilberte, endowed with an excellent influence over her, entitling me now to enjoy the same favours as if, having had as a companion at some school where they had always put me at the head of my class the son of a king, I had owed to that accident the right of informal entry into the palace and to audiences in the throne-room, Swann, with an infinite benevolence and as though he were not over-burdened with glorious occupations, would make me go into his library and there let me for an hour on end respond in stammered monosyllables, timid silences broken by brief and incoherent bursts of courage, to utterances of which my emotion prevented me from understanding a single word; would shew me works of art and books which he thought likely to interest me, things as to which I had no doubt, before seeing them, that they infinitely surpassed in beauty anything that the Louvre possessed or the National Library, but at which I found it impossible to look.

At such moments I should have been grateful to Swann’s butler, had he demanded from me my watch, my tie-pin, my boots, and made me sign a deed acknowledging him as my heir: in the admirable words of a popular expression of which, as of the most famous epics, we do not know who was the author, although, like those epics, and with all deference to Wolf* and his theory, it most certainly had an author, one of those inventive, modest souls such as we come across every year, who light upon such gems as ‘putting a name to a face,’ though their own names they never let us learn, I did not know what I was doing.

*Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824) a German philologist who held that the works attributed to Homer were written by a number of anonymous bards.

À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleur by Marcel Proust 1918;  translated as Within a Budding Grove by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1924.

Tags: Proust
Posted 7/10/2011 2:52pm by Eugene Wyatt.

July 10, 1871

But we are no more disturbed by the fact of our having become another person, after a lapse of years and in the natural order of events, than we are disturbed at any given moment by the fact of our being, one after another, the incompatible persons, crafty, sensitive, refined, coarse, disinterested, ambitious, which we are, in turn, every day of our life. And the reason why this does not disturb us is the same, namely that the self which has been eclipsed — momentarily in this latter case and when it is a question of character, permanently in the former case and when it is a matter of passions — is not present to deplore the other, the other which is for the moment, or for all time, our whole self; the coarse self laughs at his own coarseness, for he is a coarse person, and the forgetful man does not worry about his loss of memory, simply because he has forgotten.

I should have been incapable of resuscitating Albertine because I was incapable of resuscitating myself, of resuscitating the self of those days. Life, according to its habit which is, by incessant, infinitesimal labours, to change the face of the world, had not said to me on the morrow of Albertine’s death: “Become another person,” but, by changes too imperceptible for me to be conscious even that I was changing, had altered almost every element in me, with the result that my mind was already accustomed to its new master — my new self — when it became aware that it had changed; it was upon this new master that it depended.

Albertine Disparue Marcel Proust 1925; translated as The Sweet Cheat Gone by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1930.

Tags: Proust
Posted 7/3/2011 9:13am by Eugene Wyatt.

From an OP-ED memoir in the July 1, 2011 New York Times by A. E.  Hotchner entitled Hemingway, Hounded by the Feds.

In 1959 Ernest (Hemingway) had a contract with Life magazine to write about Spain’s reigning matadors, the brothers-in-law Antonio Ordóñez and Luis Miguel Dominguín. He cabled me, urging me to join him for the tour. It was a glorious summer, and we celebrated Ernest’s 60th birthday with a party that lasted two days.

But I remember it now as the last of the good times.

In May 1960, Ernest phoned me from Cuba. He was uncharacteristically perturbed that the unfinished Life article had reached 92,453 words. The contract was for 40,000; he was having nightmares.

A month later he called again. He had cut only 530 words, he was exhausted and would it be an imposition to ask me to come to Cuba to help him?

I did, and over the next nine days I submitted list upon list of suggested cuts. At first he rejected them: “What I’ve written is Proustian in its cumulative effect, and if we eliminate detail we destroy that effect.” But eventually he grudgingly consented to cutting 54,916 words. He was resigned, surrendering, and said he would leave it to Life to cut the rest.

A. E. Hotchner is the author of Papa Hemingway and Hemingway and His World.

Tags: Proust
Posted 7/3/2011 9:00am by Eugene Wyatt.

Marcel Proust wrote in a hypotactic style; in the entry above by A. E. Hotchner we have the paratactic Ernest Hemingway defend the editing of his writing for hypotactic or Proustian reasons.  I would like to see what Hemingway cut out of the Life article.

For me the definitions* are of little use in remembering the difference  between the terms, not being a student of Greek and Latin, but recalling recent authors who are famous for using the different styles is more meaningful.


Perhaps the most consistent, philosophically reasoned paratactic style in our time has been written by Ernest Hemingway. Here is the famous tight-lipped syntactic reserve:

Now in the fall the trees were all bare and the roads were muddy. I rode to Gorizia from Udine on a camion. We passed other camions on the road and I looked at the country. The mulberry trees were bare and the fields were brown. There were wet dead leaves on the road from the rows of bare trees and men were working on the road, tamping stone in the ruts from piles of crushed stone along the side of the road between the trees. We saw the town with a mist over it that cut off the mountains. We crossed the river and I saw that it was running high. It had been raining in the moun­tains. We came into the town past the factories and then the houses and villas and I saw that many more houses had been hit. On a narrow street we passed a British Red Cross ambulance. The driver wore a cap and his face was thin and very tanned. I did not know him. I got down from the camion in the big square in front of the Town Mayor's house, the driver handed down my rucksack and I put it on and swung on the two musettes and walked to our villa. It did not feel like a homecoming.

A Farewell to Arms, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929.

Analysing Prose, Richard A. Lantham, 1983.

*Edward Morris wrote in 1901 that the term (parataxis) was introduced into linguistics by Friedrich Thiersch in his Greek Grammar (1831). The concept has expanded since then, and a number of definitions have emerged, often conflicting. From Wikipedia.

Posted 6/28/2011 7:30pm by Eugene Wyatt.

When driving this morning to the tannery in Quakertown to drop off sheepskins to be tanned and to pick up those that I'd left there 6 weeks ago, I heard the following passage from Proust's The Search for Lost Time read by John Rowe;  I liked it so much that I noted to find the passage on eBooks Adelaide when I got back home. I was sure I could find it easily by searching the web page for Titian, a name that Proust does not use often. 

What interests me is how Proust has his child-adult narrator play with the register of what he writes by going back and forth between the imagined wonders of Venice and the winter weather in Paris where he has his imaginings. Some critics label this as Proust's use of counterpoint in writing; no matter what you call it, it is mildy lyrical and rather pleasing.

When I repeated to myself, giving thus a special value to what I was going to see, that Venice was the “School of Giorgione, the home of Titian, the most complete museum of the domestic architecture of the Middle Ages,” I felt happy indeed. As I was even more when, on one of my walks, as I stepped out briskly on account of the weather, which, after several days of a precocious spring, had relapsed into winter (like the weather that we had invariably found awaiting us at Combray, in Holy Week), — seeing upon the boulevards that the chestnut-trees, though plunged in a glacial atmosphere that soaked through them like a stream of water, were none the less beginning, punctual guests, arrayed already for the party, and admitting no discouragement, to shape and chisel and curve in its frozen lumps the irrepressible verdure whose steady growth the abortive power of the cold might hinder but could not succeed in restraining — I reflected that already the Ponte Vecchio was heaped high with an abundance of hyacinths and anemones, and that the spring sunshine was already tinging the waves of the Grand Canal with so dusky an azure, with emeralds so splendid that when they washed and were broken against the foot of one of Titian’s paintings they could vie with it in the richness of their colouring.

Swann's Way Marcel Proust 1913, translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922.

Tags: Proust
Posted 6/2/2011 7:11am by Eugene Wyatt.

One evening at 11:30 Paul Morand was wakened by the doorbell, which signaled the beginning of the most extraordinary night. Without bothering to put on a bathrobe over his pajamas, Morand, who was expecting no visitors, opened the door. He saw standing before him a "very pale" man, wearing a thick but worn fur coat and a scarf, despite the warm evening. Morand, although half-asleep, had a writer's eye and quickly took in the features of the strange personage in the doorway. (His) black hair was so thick that it pushed back the gray bowler, he carried a cane and wore slate-colored kid gloves, his teeth were large and perfect, with heavy lips set off by a mustache and large dark eyes whose gaze was both soft and magnetic. The nocturnal visitor announced in a "ceremonious" and "tremulous" voice: "I am Marcel Proust."

The astonished
Morand invited him in. Proust, who asked permission to keep on his pelisse, began to speak in an insinuating but authoritative voice which Morand immediately recognized as the one he had found so spellbinding in Swann's Way. After telling Morand to get back into bed, Proust explained that he could go out only late at night and had taken the liberty of ringing the doorbell because Bardac had told him how much Morand liked Swann's Way. Morand later remembered that he "had even cried out, after having read Swann: 'It's so much better than Flaubert!' This cry of enthusiasm had reached Proust," who was now sitting down in front of the white marble chimney at the foot of Morand's bed. So began a long visit.

(Morand), who harbored ambitions to be a writer, found himself: with the man whose conversation was said to be the most brilliant in a city of legendary oral wits. The Proustian spoken sentence, as registered by Morand that evening, was

"singsong, caviling, reasoned, answering objections the listener would never have thought of making, raising unforeseen difficulties, subtle in shifts and pettifoggery, stunning in its parentheses—that, like helium balloons held the sentence aloft—vertiginous in its length . . . well constructed despite its disjointedness; as you listened spellbound, you risked becoming enmeshed in a network of incidents that was so tangled that you would have been lulled by its  music had you not suddenly been alerted by an observation of unbelievable profundity or brilliant comedy."* 

Morand remained dumbstruck in admiration. What he felt most strongly in the room that evening was the presence of genius.

Proust said that he had made an exception to come out and meet Morand that night, an exception he would pay for afterward. He then described the "art of living" with this famous traitor known as illness, how he changed—to the amazement of specialists—the prescribed doses of stimulants and depressants, how he consumed huge quantities of caffeine in pill form, or brewed, which he often laced with bromide, as a corrective to coffee's stimulating properties. Morand, aghast at what he heard, remarked that Proust was applying the accelerator and the brakes at the same time. Proust replied that he knew better than anyone what was good for him, adding, "We are never cured; at best we learn to live with our maladies."

From  Marcel Proust—A Life, William C. Carter 2000, p. 606

*Le Visiteur du Soir, Paul Morand 1949.

Tags: Proust
Posted 5/27/2011 7:02am by Eugene Wyatt.

On (a) Saturday evening (in April of 1913) Marcel wrote Antoine Bibesco about the concert he had just attended at the Salle Villiers: "Great emotion this evening. More dead than alive I nonetheless went to a recital hall … to hear the Franck Sonata which I love so much." The piece was Cesar Franck's 1886 Sonata in A major for Piano and Violin, performed by the renowned Romanian violinist Georges Enesco and the French pianist Paul Goldschmidt. Proust had never heard Enesco, and he found his playing "wonderful; the mournful twitterings, the plaintive calls of his violin answered the piano as though from a tree, as though from some mysterious arbour. It made a very great impression." … Years later, when inscribing an original deluxe edition of Swann's Way to a young friend, Jacques de Lacretelle, Proust provided a fairly detailed account of the music that inspired (the fictional composer) Vinteuil's compositions. He mentioned, as one source of inspiration, Franck's sonata, as played by Enesco, where the "piano and the violin moan like two birds calling each other."

From  Marcel Proust—A Life, William C. Carter 2000.

Posted 5/18/2011 6:00pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Here in the translator's preface you see Proust going beyond Ruskin; I include it because it's a lovely piece of prose and also because it's from a marvelous and unique preface where the translator disputes the author he translates; the preface and notes to the translation are more about Proust than about Ruskin.

We feel quite truly that our wisdom begins where that of the author ends, and we would like to have him give us answers, when all he can do is give us desires. And these desires he can arouse in us only by making us contemplate the supreme beauty which the last effort of his art has permitted him to reach. But by a singular and, moreover, providential law of mental optics (a law which perhaps signifies that we can receive the truth from nobody, and that we must create it ourselves), that which is the end of their wisdom appears to us as but the beginning of ours, so that it is at the moment when they have told us all they could tell us that they create in us the feeling that they have told us nothing yet.

From On Reading, the translator's preface to John Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies translated into French by Marcel Proust 1906; On Reading translated into English by Jean Autret and William Burford, 1971.

Posted 5/16/2011 7:27pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The real mystery of Proust (À la recherche du temps perdu is considered my many to be the greatest work of imaginative literature in the past 100 years) and his fiction is how did he, being unable to compose a novel until he'd reached the age of 35, come to write fiction at all in real life.  What provoked his genius?  Tadié suggests his reading of Ruskin was responsible instead of the fictional claim in the work where the narrator* specifies, in one case, the taste of a madelaine as the agent that brings forth involuntary memory enabling the him to write about his past.

Ruskin's book (Sesame and Lilies) is concerned with reading.  Proust seized on it (to translate) as an opportunity to recall his childhood reading during the holidays, improving on some of the passages from Jean Santeuil (his first 800 page attempt at a novel, abandoned and not published until 1952); the themes and the use of the first person provide a foretaste of Du cote de chez  Swann. If old books can conjure up the past, which can rise up into the present through the phenomenon of involuntary memory,  reading can lead us to the threshold of spiritual life (Ruskin), although it is not a substitute for it (Proust).

(In On Reading) he was making a clean break with the past, and with Ruskin, to whom he was bidding farewell; the choice had to be made between reading and writing, between other people’s books and his own work: 'We can only nurture the power of our sensitivity and our intelligence within ourselves, in the depths of our spiritual life,' from Contre Sainte Beuve.  Proust turned back into himself, into fictional creation. Escaping in  someone else's work had been both a failure and a success, because it had helped shape his mind, broadened his cultural knowledge [annotating Ruskin had required a considerable amount of research] and it had enriched his use of language. The pen that began Jean Santeuil was very different to that which framed the first lines of' On Reading:

'There are perhaps no other days of our childhood that we lived so fully as those which we believed we had left behind without experiencing them, those which we spent in the company of a favourite book.’

Both actively and reactively, Ruskin had thus given Proust the opportunity to clarify the aesthetic philosophy that he lacked, and to nurture the library of books which this least accumulative of men kept, not in his apartment, but in his mind…we pass from Ruskin as a reader to Proust as an adult reader, and thence to a small boy reading: that is to say, to a fictional character.

Fate would decree that just as Dante was abandoned by Virgil as they left Purgatory ['Thee o'er thyself I therefore crown and mitre'], Marcel should be deserted by Ruskin…at the very moment that he embarked upon the novel…

Marcel Proust, A Life Jean-Yves Tadié 1996, translated by Euan Cameron.

*In his letters and notes to himself about the novel, Proust usually spoke of the Narrator as "I," making no distinction between himself and his fictional persona. Proust's friends would recognize that voice as the writer's own. Whenever the Narrator speaks about art and literature, he is speaking for Proust. Still, Proust was engaged not in writing his autobiography but in creating a novel in which there are strong autobiographical elements. The symbiosis between Proust and his Narra­tor can be explained by the hybrid origin of the story. Having begun as an essay (Contre Sainte Beuve) in which the "I" was himself, as the text veered more and more toward fiction, the "I" telling the story became both its generator and its subject, like a Siamese twin, intimately linked to Proust's body and soul and yet other. This novel that passion­ately examines and contrasts the poetry and reality of proper names has none for the Narrator and his family. They are known only as "I," "Mama," and "Papa." The novel's creator was truly "another I," Proust at his best and most profound, reinventing himself for this novel that lacked obvious precursors.

From  Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2000.

Posted 5/13/2011 2:39pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Proust's rhetoric and syntax, components of his complex style of multiple perspectives, develop for the first time into what is often described as "Proustian" in the preface he wrote for his translation of Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies; he continues using these long and intricate sentence structures in his next critical  work, Contre Sainte Beuve, before he begins his masterwork À la recherche du temps perdu about 1908.

“There are  perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we let slip by without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book." Thus Proust began in the preface (On Reading) to his translation of Sesame and Lilies

Anna de Noailles and other friends marveled at Proust's essay on reading (first published in the Renaissance Latine). She wrote immediately to express her admiration: "My dear friend, I only see people who are dazzled... touched... by the dear, divine pages you have written." She told him that people were quoting extensively from his article and that she (and critic) Andre Beaunier had passed his preface back and forth, describing to each other his sentences that were like "adorable threads of silk."

(Marcel) refused to believe it. Accustomed as he was to showering the most lavish compliments on his friends' mediocre writings, he could not believe that their words were sincere. He answered by "beseeching" Anna to "stop being so nice . . . for I cannot bear it any longer; the burden of happiness, gratitude, emotion, stupefaction is too overwhelming and I might die of it. There is also the fear that the whole thing may be a joke, for nothing can penetrate the armour of my sadness, (his asthma had been getting worse) my conviction that all those pages are execrable, a sort of indigestible nougat which sticks between one's teeth."

Beaunier had  taken particular delight in the style: "These long sentences, encumbered with all the details and circumstances, have a strange and delicious charm," which came, Beaunier said, from their "meticulous truth."

Writing to Mme Straus, Proust worried that his ... essay might be dangerous for his languid friend to read and urged her to avoid it: "Don't read it, it's a failed effort and horribly wearying to read, with sentences that take up an entire page" of the kind “that Dr. Widmer would particularly forbid you to read."

From  Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2000.

Posted 5/6/2011 8:22am by Eugene Wyatt.

Examples of lyric In Search of Lost Time:

Although it was simply a Sunday in autumn, I had been born again, life lay intact before me, for that morning, after a succession of mild days, there had been a cold fog which had not cleared until nearly midday: and a change in the weather is sufficient to create the world and ourselves anew. Formerly, when the wind howled in my chimney, I would listen to the blows which it struck on the iron trap with as keen an emotion as if, like the famous chords with which the Fifth Symphony opens, they had been the irresistible calls of a mysterious destiny. Every change in the aspect of nature offers us a similar transformation by adapting our desires so as to harmonise with the new form of things. The mist, from the moment of my awakening, had made of me, instead of the centrifugal being which one is on fine days, a man turned in on himself, longing for the chimney corner and the shared bed, a shivering Adam in quest of a sedentary Eve, in this different world.

Between the soft grey tint of a morning landscape and the taste of a cup of chocolate I incorporated all the originality of the physical, intellectual and moral life which I had taken with me to Doncieres about a year earlier and which, blazoned with the oblong form of a bare hillside—always present even when it was invisible—formed in me a series of pleasures entirely distinct from all others, incommunicable to my friends in the sense that the impressions, richly interwoven with one another, which orchestrated them were a great deal more characteristic of them to my unconscious mind than any facts that I might have related.

Le côte de Guermantes, Marcel Proust 1920; translated as The Guermantes Way by C. K. Scott Moncrief and Terrance Kilmartin, P. 358 of the Vintage Edition.

Tags: Proust
Posted 5/4/2011 6:01pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Prince Von speaks of the German Emperor William II over dinner at the Duc de Guermantes.

“The Emperor is a man of astounding intelligence,” resumed the Prince, “he is passionately fond of the arts, he has for works of art a taste that is practically infallible, if a thing is good he spots it at once and takes a dislike to it. If he detests anything there can be no more doubt about it, the thing is excellent.“  Everyone smiled.

Le côte de Guermantes, Marcel Proust 1920; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrief 1925.

Tags: Proust
Posted 4/24/2011 10:04am by Eugene Wyatt.


      if I had been tempted to scoff at her (Françoise, the old servant) when,

             in her misery at having to leave a house in which one was "so well respected by all and sundry,"

      she had packed her trunks weeping,

            in accordance with the rites of Combray,

      and declaring superior to all possible houses that which had been ours, 

on the other hand,

      finding it as hard to assimilate the new as I found it easy to abandon the old,

I felt myself drawn towards our old servant

      when I saw that moving into a building

           where she had not received from the hall-porter,

              who did not yet know us,

                 (what) the marks of respect necessary to her spiritual wellbeing,

                      had brought her positively to the verge of prostration.

The Guermantes Way Volume II, p. 3; In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, translated by Moncrief and Kilmartin, Vintage Edition.

Tags: Proust
Posted 4/19/2011 8:41pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Tags: Hahn, Proust
Posted 4/18/2011 10:42pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Reading Carter's biography of Proust, I came upon this  mention  of  Saint-Saëns's Opus 75 and accessed it on iTunes as both the narrator and Swann go on expansively about "the little phrase" which finds it source here.

Despite "passionate" admiration for Saint-Saëns's work, Proust thought less highly of the composer's accomplishments than did his former pupil (the composer) Reynaldo (Hahn).  But the haunting melody of one section of the first movement of Saint-Saëns's Sonata I for Piano and Violin, Opus 75, captivated him. Marcel never tired of hearing it and asked Reynaldo (his lover) to play it for him again and again, referring to it as “the little phrase."  In the Search… Swann asks Odette (his lover) to play it  for him again and again, "the little phrase," now attributed to Proust's fictional composer Vinteuil.

Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2000

The Saint-Saëns sonata, is it in a minor key—it feels like it—I'm not sure, but after listening to it, Swann in love I'm not, and of that I'm sure. I did download piano music by Reynaldo Hahn, not being familiar with his work, to give it a listen.

But before we go, here is an excerpt of Proust speaking of the language of music  as Swann listens to the Vinteuil sonata containing the little phrase performed at the home of the Marquise de Saint-Euverte's.

At first the piano complained alone, like a bird deserted by its mate; the violin heard and answered it, as from a neighboring tree. It was as at the beginning of the world, as if there were as yet only the two of them on the earth, or rather in this world closed to all the rest, so fashioned by the logic of its creator that in it there should never be any but themselves: the world of this sonata. Was it a bird, was it the soul, as yet not fully formed, of the little phrase, was it a fairy—that being invisibly lamenting, whose plaint the piano heard and tenderly repeated? Its cries were so sudden that the violinist must snatch up his bow and race to catch them as they came. Marvelous bird! The violinist seemed to wish to charm, to tame, to capture it. Already it had passed into his soul, already the little phrase which it evoked shook like a medium's the body of the violinist, "possessed" indeed. Swann knew that the phrase was going to speak to him once again. And his personality was now so divided that the strain of waiting for the imminent moment when he would find himself face to face with it again shook him with one of those sobs which a beautiful line of poetry or a sad piece of news will wring from us, not when we are alone, but when we impart them to friends in whom we see ourselves reflected like a third person whose probable emotion affects them too. It reappeared, but this time to remain poised in the air, and to sport there for a moment only, as though immobile, and shortly to expire. And so Swann lost nothing of the precious time for which it lingered. It was still there, like an iridescent bubble that floats for a while unbroken. As a rainbow whose brightness is fading seems to subside, then soars again and, before it is extinguished, shines forth with greater splendor than it has ever shown; so to the two colours which the little phrase had hitherto allowed to appear it added others now, chords shot with every hue in the prism, and made them sing.

Swann's Way Volume I, 495ff; In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, translated by Moncrief and Kilmartin, revised by Enright. The Modern Library Edition.

Posted 4/7/2011 8:56pm by Eugene Wyatt.

If one had to read but a sampling of À la Recherche du temps perdu it would be Noms De Pays: Le Nom, the last section of volume I, Du côté de chez Swann.  The tone is lovely; the account is self contained and it has a wistful yet mature view of time past and has no need of the madelaine gimmickry that Proust uses to conjure 'involuntary memory'.

Tags: Proust
Posted 4/4/2011 9:10am by Eugene Wyatt.

Robert de Montesquiou, the aesthete who was the model for Proust's Baron de Charlus (perhaps the most intriguing and certainly the most  amusing character of the 2000 personages, real or fictional, in À la recherche du temps perdu), had his first love affair

"with a female ventriloquist who, while Montesquiou was straining to achieve his climax, would imitate the drunken voice of a pimp, threatening the aristocratic client."

Pages from the Goncourt Journals, (1851-1896) the Goncourt Brothers, Edmund & Jules, translator Robert Baldick, 2006.

Posted 3/31/2011 3:03pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Colette has given us a portrait of Marcel that is all but forgotten, yet which is shocking in its disdain:

“At ‘mother Barmann's’ [that is to say Mme Arman] I was hounded, politely, by a pretty, young literary-minded boy. The young fellow had fine eyes, with a hint of blepharism...He compared me—my short hair again!—to Myrtocleia, to a young Hermes, to a love of Prud'hon's...My little flatterer, thrilled by his own evocations, never left me...He contemplated me with his caressing eyes, with their long eyelashes...”

Colette did not much care for

“his over-weaning politeness, the excessive attention he paid to those he was talking to,”

she once again described

"the large, brownish, melancholy eyes, a skin that was sometimes pink and sometimes pale, an anxious look in the eyes, a mouth which, when it shut, was pursed tightly as if for a kiss...”

Marcel Proust, A Life by Jean-Yves Tadié, 1996 p. 211.

Posted 3/27/2011 3:49pm by Eugene Wyatt.

On the way to a recital at the house of the Duc de Guermantes, travelling along the Champs Elysées, Marcel's carriage reaches the Rue Royale.

I was not traversing the same streets as those who were passing by, I was gliding through a sweet and melancholy past composed of so many different pasts that it was difficult for me to identify the cause of my melancholy. Was it due to those pacings to and fro awaiting Gilberte and fearing she would not come? Was it that I was close to a house where I had been told that Albertine had gone with Andrée or was it the philosophic significance a street seems to assume when one has used it a thousand times while one was obsessed with a passion which has come to an end and borne no fruit like when after luncheon I made fevered expeditions to gaze at the play-bills of Phèdre and of The Black Domino while they were still moist with the bill-sticker’s paste?

Le temps retrouvé 1927,  Volume VII of À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust. Translated by Stephen Hudson.

Tags: Proust
Posted 3/25/2011 8:01am by Eugene Wyatt.

On second thought, it's not to restart reading À la recherche du temps perdu, but to continue what I enjoy: looking at Proust's syntax, diagramming the more curious structures,  questioning the translations, reading the original in French when I do question them, and so on.

My bedtime reading is Jean Yves Tadié's biography, Marcel Proust, A Life which is lighter for the late hours of the day; on clear mornings, before following Proust into his daunting music, where I often feel clumsy like I'm learning the tango, "Show me that step again, s'il vous plaît," I read a section or two of Virginia Tufte's helpful Artful Sentences, Syntax as Style to better understand the grammar (noun phrases, verb phrases, etc.) that Proust uses in À la recherche du temps perdu, pedant, or verbal danceophile, that I sometimes can be.

Since my name was on their visiting-lists, my long absence from Paris had not prevented old friends from sending me invitations and when, on getting home, I found together with an invitation for the following day to a supper given by La Berma in honour of her daughter and her son-in-law, another for an afternoon reception at the Prince de Guermantes’, my sad reflections in the train were not the least of the motives which counselled me to go there.

I told myself it really was not worth while to deprive myself of society since I was either not equipped for or not up to the precious “work” to which I had for so long been hoping to devote myself “to-morrow” and which, may be, corresponded to no reality.

In truth, this reasoning was negative and merely eliminated the value of those which might have kept me away from this society function.

But what made me go was that name of Guermantes which had so far gone out of my head that, when I saw it on the invitation card, it awakened a beam of attention and laid hold of a fraction of the past buried in the depths of my memory, a past associated with visions of the forest domain, its rich luxuriance once again assuming the charm and significance of the old Combray days when, before going home, I passed into the Rue de l’Oiseau and saw from outside, like dark lacquer, the painted window of Gilbert le Mauvais, Sire of Guermantes.

For a moment the Guermantes seemed once more utterly different from society people, incomparable with them or with any living beings, even with a king, beings issuing from gestation in the austere and virtuous atmosphere of that sombre town of Combray where my childhood was spent, and from the whole past represented by the little street whence I gazed up at the painted window.

I longed to go to the Guermantes’ as though it would bring me back my childhood from the deeps of memory where I glimpsed it.

And I continued to re-read the invitation until the letters which composed the name, familiar and mysterious as that of Combray itself, rebelliously recaptured their independence and spelled to my tired eyes a name I did not know.

Le temps retrouvé 1927,  Volume VII of À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust. Translated by Stephen Hudson.


My long absence from Paris had not prevented old friends from continuing, as my name remained on their lists, faithfully to send me invitations, and when on my return I found—together with one to a tea-party given by Berma for her daughter and her son-in-law another to an afternoon party with music which was to take place the following day at the house of the Prince de Guermantes, the gloomy reflexions which had passed through my mind in the train were not the least of the motives which urged me to accept.

Really, I said to myself, what point is there in forgoing the pleasures of social life if, as seems to be the case, the famous "work" which for so long I have been hoping every day to start the next day, is something I am not, or am no longer, made for and perhaps does not even correspond to any reality.  

This reasoning was, it is true, completely negative and merely deprived of their force those other reasons which might have dissuaded me from going to this fashionable concert.

The positive rea­son that made me decide to go was the name of Guer­mantes, absent long enough from my mind to be able, when I read it upon the invitation card, to re-awaken a ray of my attention, to draw up from the depths of my memory a sort of section of the past of the Guermantes, attended by all the images of seigniorial forest and t flowers which at that earlier time of my life had accompa­nied it, and to reassume for me the charm and the significance which I had found in it at Combray when, passing along the Rue de l'Oiseau on my way home, I used to from outside, like some dark lacquer, the window Gilbert the Bad, Lord of Guermantes.

For a moment the Guermantes had once more seemed to me to be totally different from people in society, comparable neither with them nor with any living being, even a reigning prince, creatures begotten of the union of the sharp and windy air of the dark town of Combray in which my childhood had been spent with the past which could be sensed there, in the little street, at the height of the stained-glass window.

I had had a longing to go to the Guermantes party as if in going there I must have been brought nearer to my child­hood and to the depths of my memory where my child­hood dwelt.

And I had continued to read and re-read the invitation until in the end, rising in revolt, the letters which composed this name at once so familiar and so mysterious, like that of Combray itself, resumed their in­dependence and outlined before my tired eyes a name that I seemed never to have seen before.

Le temps retrouvé 1927, Volume VII of À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust.  Translated by Andreas Mayor, Terence Kilmartin and revised by D. J. Enright.

Tags: Proust
Posted 3/23/2011 6:28pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Oh the loss! Perhaps I should restart À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust now that I have finished it; over several months, I slowly read scenes that interested me—I even diagramed some of his sentences to better experience them—these were scenes and passages that I noted while listening to the work being read to me (in truth, the last 5 volumes were abridged in the audio format) as I drove upstate and down. The 4300 pages in 7 volumes of The Modern Library Edition contain over 2000 characters—who could know that many people—nevertheless I feel like a companion, one I got to know well, has left me. 

The basic story (really an excuse for the author's pleasure of writing) is of minimal interest—how Marcel begins to write—but Proust's labyrinthine sentences that describe the narrator's feelings about the people he encounters are a treasure, never lost in Time like Marcel's past, always present and available to a reader in the volumes of  À la recherche du temps perdu.

Does not the sign of unreality in others consist in their inability to satisfy us, as, for instance, in the case of social pleasures which, at best, cause that discomfort which is provoked by unwholesome food, when friendship is almost a pretence, since, for whatever moral reasons he may seek it, the artist who gives up an hour of work to converse for that time with a friend knows that he is sacrificing a reality to an illusion (friends being friends only in the sense of a sweet madness which overcomes us in life and to which we yield, though at the back of our minds we know it to be the error of a lunatic who imagines the furniture to be alive and talks to it) owing to the sadness which follows its satisfaction—like that I felt the day I was first introduced to Albertine when I gave myself the trouble, after all not great, to obtain something—to make the acquaintance of the girl—which only seemed to me unimportant because I had obtained it.

Le temps retrouvé 1927,  Volume VII of À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust. Translated by Stephen Hudson.

Tags: Proust
Posted 3/3/2011 8:00am by Eugene Wyatt.

Proust, when he's writing a scene, moving his people in and out of the action, as he does here in Mme de Villeparisis's drawing room, writes as clearly as E. B. White; but  when he describes the reflections of his narrator in the same scene he writes as only he can: in a fashion that is qualifying, parenthetical and nuanced as his syntax travels backwards and forwards—even sideways—through temporal realms. This is writing that I'm drawn to.  He writes necessarily; these long and complex sentences can not be shortened or simplified without changing the characters or their concerns.

Mme de Guermantes had sat down.

Her name, accompanied as it was by her title, added to her physical person the duchy which cast its aura round about her and brought the shadowy, sun-splashed coolness of the woods of Guermantes into this drawing-room, to surround the pouf on which she was sitting.

I was surprised only that the likeness of those woods was not more discernible on the face of the Duchess, about which there was nothing suggestive of vegetation, and on which the ruddiness of her cheeks—which ought, one felt, to have been emblazoned with the name Guermantes—was at most the effect, and not the reflexion, of long gallops in the open air.

Later on, when I had become indifferent to her, I came to know many of the Duchess's distinctive features, notably (to stick for the moment only to those of which I already at this time felt the charm though without yet being able to identify it) her eyes, which captured as in a picture the blue sky of a French country afternoon, broadly expansive, bathed in light even when no sun shone; and a voice which one would have thought, from its first hoarse sounds, to be almost plebeian, in which there lingered, as over the steps of the church at Combray or the pastrycook's in the square, the rich and lazy gold of a country sun.

But on this first day I discerned nothing, my ardent attention volatilised at once the little that I might otherwise have been able to take in and from which I might have been able to grasp something of the name Guermantes.

In any case, I told myself that it was indeed she who was designated for all the world by the title Duchesse de Guermantes: the inconceivable life which that name signified was indeed contained in this body; it had just introduced that life into the midst of a group of disparate people, in this room which enclosed it on every side and on which it produced so vivid a reaction that I felt I could see, where the extent of that mysterious life ceased, a fringe of effervescence outline its frontiers—in the circumference of the circle traced on the carpet by the balloon of her blue pekin skirt, and in the bright eyes of the Duchess at the point of intersection of the preoccupations, the memories, the incomprehensible, scornful, amused and curious thoughts which filled them from within and the outside images that were reflected on their surface.

Perhaps I should have been not quite so deeply stirred had I met her at Mme de Villeparisis's at an evening party, instead of seeing her thus at one of the Marquise's "at homes," at one of those tea-parties which are for women no more than a brief halt in the course of their afternoon's outing, when, keeping on the hats in which they have been doing their shopping, they waft into a succession of salons the quality of the fresh air outside, and offer a better view of Paris in the late afternoon than do the tall open windows through which one can hear the rumble of victorias: Mme de Guermantes wore a straw hat trimmed with cornflowers, and what they recalled to me was not the sunlight of bygone years among the tilled fields round Combray where I had so often gathered them on the slope adjoining the Tansonville hedge, but the smell and the dust of twilight as they had been an hour ago when Mme de Guermantes had walked through them in the Rue de la Paix.

With a smiling, disdainful, absent-minded air, and a pout on her pursed lips, she was tracing circles on the carpet with the point of her sunshade, as with the extreme tip of an antenna of her mysterious life; then, with that indifferent attention which begins by eliminating every point of contact between oneself and what one is considering, her gaze fastened upon each of us in turn, then inspected the settees and chairs, but softened now by that human sympathy which is aroused by the presence, however insignificant, of a thing one knows, a thing that is almost a person: these pieces of furniture she would have felt had she noticed on the chairs, instead of our presence, that of a spot of grease or a layer of dust.

Le Côté de Guermantes Volume III of À la recherche du temps perdu Marcel Proust, 1921. Translated by Moncrief, Kilmartin and Enright in the Modern Library Edition, the paragraph beginning on page 273.

Tags: Proust
Posted 2/17/2011 10:00am by Eugene Wyatt.

Marvelous sentence. The transcendence from Marcel at l'Opéra to his remembrance of summer afternoons as a boy walking along what was called Le Côté de Guermantes (the Guermantes way), so named because the Guermantes family had a summer house on the river Vivonne near where Marcel's family, who vacationed in Combray, often took their  Sunday walks, epitomises his desire  to recall the past as portrayed throughout the novel and made manifest here as Proust's sentence closes. 

…I would rather have had their opinion of Phèdre than that of the greatest critic in the world.  For in his I should have found merely intelligence, an intelligence superior to my own but similar in kind.

But what the Duchesse and Princesse de Guermantes might think, an opinion which would have furnished me with an invaluable clue to the nature of these two poetic creatures, I imagined with the aid of their names, I endowed with an irrational charm, and, with the thirst and the longing of a fever-stricken patient, what I demanded that their opinion of Phèdre should yield to me was the charm of the summer afternoons that I had spent wandering along the Guermantes way.

Le Côté de Guermantes Volume III of À la recherche du temps perdu Marcel Proust, 1921. Translated by Moncrief, Kilmartin and Enright.

Tags: Proust
Posted 2/15/2011 9:04pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Marcel goes to l'Opéra where he divides his attention between watching the actress Berma (a character based on Sarah Bernhardt) perform in Racine's Phèdre and paying earnest attention to the Duchesse de Guermantes and the audience in the boxes surrounding her.

…while an effort as painstaking as it must have been costly to imitate the clothes and style of the Duchesse de Guermantes only made Mme de Cambremerer look like some provincial schoolgirl, mounted on wires, rigid, erect, desiccated, angular, with a plume of raven's feathers stuck vertically in her hair.

Perhaps she was out of place in a theatre in which it was only with the brightest stars of the season that the boxes (even those in the highest tier, which from below seemed like great hampers studded with human flowers and attached to the ceiling of the auditorium by the red cords of their plush-covered partitions) composed an ephemeral panorama which deaths, scandals, illnesses, quarrels would soon alter, but which this evening was held motionless by attentiveness, heat, dizziness, dust, elegance and boredom, in the sort of eternal tragic instant of unconscious expectancy and calm torpor which, in retrospect, seems always to have preceded the explosion of a bomb or the first flicker of a fire.

Le Côté de Guermantes Volume III of À la recherche du temps perdu Marcel Proust, 1921. Translated by Moncrief, Kilmartin, Enright and me.

Tags: Proust
Posted 2/9/2011 12:50pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Reading Proust, I listen to the Moncrief translation on an iPhone when I'm driving; on a Kindle app, I  read The Moncrief, Kilmartin, Enright revised translation, but very slowly, identifying the basic parts of speech and how they function.  I want to hear and understand what Proust is doing at the sentence level. 

Here is a passage from Volume III of À la Recherche du Temps PerduLe Côte de Guermantes:

Moncrief, Kilmartin, Enright revised translation (1925, 1981, 1994):

I had been able to distinguish the intentions underlying the voices and the mime of Aricie, Is­mene and Hippolyte, but Phèdre had interiorised hers, and my mind had not succeeded in wresting from her diction and attitudes, in apprehending in the miserly sim­plicity of their unbroken surfaces, those inventions, those effects of which no sign emerged, so completely had they been absorbed into it.

The last word, what does the "it" refer to in the sentence above?  It makes no sense; the singular referent the "it" refers to is not there.  The pronoun in the French construction is the 3rd person plural ils not the 3rd person singular il (as translated); and in my view, the translator should have used them instead of it to refer to "her diction and attitudes."

Note: Upon rereading the original passage, I found that it and the newsletter version were in error about pronoun reference.  It stands corrected.

Proust (1920):

Les intentions entourant comme une bordure majestueuse ou délicate la voix et la mimique d’Aricie, d’Ismène, d’Hippolyte, j’avais pu les distinguer; mais Phèdre se les était intériorisées, et mon esprit n’avait pas réussi à arracher à la diction et aux attitudes, à appréhender dans l’avare simplicité de leurs surfaces unies, ces trouvailles, ces effets qui n’en dépassaient pas, tant ils s’y étaient profondément résorbés.

The Moncrief translation, before Kilmartin and Enright revised it, is better in this instance.

Moncrief translation (1925):

The intentions which surrounded, like a majestic or delicate border, the voice and mimicry of Aricie, Ismène or Hippolyte I had been able to distinguish, but Phèdre had taken hers into herself, and my mind had not succeeded in wresting from her diction and attitudes, in apprehending in the miserly simplicity of their unbroken surfaces those treasures, those effects of which no sign emerged, so completely had they been absorbed.

Tags: Proust
Posted 1/25/2011 11:12pm by Eugene Wyatt.

...in the new house.  Which, it is high time now that the reader should be told—and told also that we had moved into it because my grandmother, not having been at all well (though we took care to keep this reason from her), was in need of better air—was a flat forming part of the Hôtel de Guermantes.

Le côte de Guermantes Vol. 3 of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, Marcel Proust 1920; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1925.

Tags: Proust
Posted 1/14/2011 9:49pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Marcel and his new friend, the handsome aristocrat Robert Saint-Loup, have dinner at the Rivebelle restaurant. Young women are seated near their table. Marcel is ever the voyeur. The year is 1890; it is Summer on the coast of Normandy.

...you could hear them whispering: “That’s young Saint-Loup. It seems he’s still quite gone on that girl of his. Got it bad, he has. What a dear boy! I think he’s just wonderful; and what style! Some girls do have all the luck, don’t they? And he’s so nice in every way. I saw a lot of him when I was with d’Orléans. They were quite inseparable, those two. He was going the pace, that time. But he’s given it all up now, she can’t complain. She’s had a good run of luck, that she can say. And I ask you, what in the world can he see in her? He must be a bit of a chump, when all’s said and done. She’s got feet like boats, whiskers like an American, and her undies are filthy. I can tell you, a little shop girl would be ashamed to be seen in her knickers. Do just look at his eyes a moment; you would jump into the fire for a man like that. Hush, don’t say a word; he’s seen me; look, he’s smiling. Oh, he remembers me all right. Just you mention my name to him, and see what he says!”

À l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs Vol. 2 of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, Marcel Proust 1919; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922.

Tags: Proust
Posted 1/6/2011 4:48pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Baron de Charlus:

His voice rose. "It reminds me of a room in the Château of Blois where the caretaker who was showing me over said: ‘This is where Mary Stuart used to say her prayers; I use it to keep my brooms in.’ Naturally I wish to know nothing more of this house that has let itself be dishonoured, any more than of my cousin Clara de Chimay after she left her husband. But I keep a photograph of the house, when it was still unspoiled, just as I keep one of the Princess before her large eyes had learned to gaze on anyone but my cousin. A photograph acquires something of the dignity which it ordinarily lacks when it ceases to be a reproduction of reality and shows us things that no longer exist."

À l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs Vol. 2 of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, Marcel Proust 1919; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922.

Posted 1/6/2011 4:40pm by Eugene Wyatt.

File:Nadar 1.jpg

Sarah Bernhardt (October 22, 1844 – March 26, 1923) was a French stage and early film actress, and has been referred to as "the most famous actress the world has ever known".  Photograph by Nadar.

In À la Recherche du Temps Perdu she is mentioned by her real name and as the fictional Berma, an actress that Marcel is finally taken to see in a matinee by his grandmother.

Posted 12/25/2010 11:21am by Eugene Wyatt.

As you perhaps know I am enamoured by the Proustian sentence;  marvelous explanations of it are to be found in this article that explicates by contrast the work of four English translators of Du Côté de Chez Swann: Moncrief, Kilmartin, Enright and Davis by André Aciman in a review entitled Proust's Way in the New York Review of Books, December 1, 2005. 

It will cost you $89.00 for a subscription that permits you  to plumb the NYRB archives 5 years and older.  Being a fan of Proust's writing you will be doubly rewarded by this article if you are also a fan of chastising wit. 

First we have Proust translated by Moncrief, then Aciman's commentary on it.

(H)e recited it with a separate stress upon each word, leaning forward, bowing his head, with at once the vehemence which a man gives, so as to be believed, to a highly improbable statement (as though the fact that he did not know the Guermantes could be due only to some strange accident of fortune) and with the emphasis of a man who, finding himself unable to keep silence about what is to him a painful situation, chooses to proclaim it aloud...

“With at once” (Proust’s à la fois) is, as I mentioned earlier, a typical move by which Proust opens up at least two prongs of interpretation. This allows his sentence to warn the reader that it is just about to bifurcate along parallel, complementary tracks. The trick of course—and Proust had mastered this better than any other writer—is to open up with an “at once” that introduces the first term of two (or more) parallel terms while managing to keep the reading voice suspended long enough so that when the second term appears, it is by no means unexpected but, in fact, welcomed, since room had already been made for it beforehand. This is what gives the Proustian sentence its stunning ability to deploy syntactic ambiguities and to resolve them along the way. This also allows Proust to open a rather long parenthetical statement that is not allowed to disturb the sentence too much, since, by the time the second term of the parallel construction is introduced, the reader will pick up the parallelism exactly where he had left it. “With at once (a) the vehemence” (quoted earlier) is finally resolved by “and (b) with the emphasis of a man who…” Enright, following in the steps of Kilmartin, keeps the parallel construction...

Lydia Davis takes an entirely different tack. She is reluctant to preface the parallel with the “at once x…and also y” formula. Such a construction would represent a stylistic maneuver that many contemporary writers might hesitate to adopt since it asks their readers to bate their breath and keep reading all the while anticipating an eventual second term. This move forces the reader to read contrapuntally, which means reading x in the present with an eye on a forthcoming y, which clearly interferes with the linear reading one expects from, say, newspapers, magazines, Harlequin romances, and living novelists I would prefer not to name.

Proust’s sentences imitate the passage of time syntactically. One reads in the present but is constantly invited to anticipate developments in the immediate future. Actually, one does not anticipate anything; one is only given the impression of having anticipated things. This impression is brought about at the end of every sentence by Proust, when we are sent back to a time when we guessed—or should have guessed—that something was being announced without being revealed yet. This ability to write things in three tenses is what confers the power of many sentences by Proust. Events are never linear in Proust.

Tags: Proust
Posted 12/9/2010 8:34am by Eugene Wyatt.

As the first volume, Swann's Way, of Proust's In Search of Lost Time has concluded on Twitter @proustr, the administrator has assured me that the second volume, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower will begin tweeting as early as this weekend.  With 500 plus pages  in the second volume at ~140 characters an hour it should take a year or more to finish the book.

In the second volume dealing with Marcel and his adolescent love for first Gilberte then for Albertine, Proust uses a more comprehensible sentence structure. I was unsure, even after reading  Swann's Way if I could finish another volume but 60 pages into  the next one I knew I would finish the seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time so familiar I was with the characters and with Proust and his rendering of their thought processes in his sometimes difficult syntax, but most importantly with his new found irony, that which seemed to be sparing in Swann's Way, as I found myself delightfully amused reading of a swooning teenager in fin-de-siècle Paris and at the same time,  knowing I was reading Proust for enjoyment rather than because, he being an acknowledged  master of Modernism, I felt that I should if I were to consider myself—or be considered by othersa well read person. 

And as you can see I like long and complicated, but grammatically correct sentences, that hopefully have their necessity.

Here is a shorter passage from In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower that I came across this morning when reading the more recent translation by James Grieve:

And since I loved her, I could only ever see her through the confused desire for more of her, which when you are with the person you love deprives you of the feeling of loving.

Tags: Proust
Posted 12/7/2010 7:30pm by Eugene Wyatt.

In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower

When his love for her had ended, the desire to show her that his love for her had ended had also disappeared. 

Marcel Proust 1919; translated by James Grieve 2002.

Tags: Proust
Posted 11/23/2010 6:10am by Eugene Wyatt.

Contrary to the ending of Un Amour de Swann where Swann has fallen out of love with Odette, Proust has them married in the next section, Noms de Pays: Le Nom, of Du Côté de Chez Swann. 

In this passage he views Odette from the eyes of Marcel (who can  sometimes be Proust, sometimes not, sometimes a child and sometimes an adult viewing his childhood).  Among other things, what strikes me is  Proust's sliding narration with its angles of view: Marcel, Odette, former lovers of Odette and Marcel again all walking in the Bois de Boulonge.

I assigned the first place, in the order of aesthetic merit and of social grandeur, to simplicity, when I saw Mme. Swann on foot, in a ‘polonaise’ of plain cloth, a little toque on her head trimmed with a pheasant’s wing, a bunch of violets in her bosom, hastening along the Allée des Acacias as if it had been merely the shortest way back to her own house, and acknowledging with a rapid glance the courtesy of the gentlemen in carriages, who, recognising her figure at a distance, were raising their hats to her and saying to one another that there was never anyone so well turned out as she.

But instead of simplicity it was to ostentation that I must assign the first place if, after I had compelled Françoise, who could hold out no longer, and complained that her legs were ‘giving’ beneath her, to stroll up and down with me for another hour, I saw at length, emerging from the Porte Dauphine, figuring for me a royal dignity, the passage of a sovereign, an impression such as no real Queen has ever since been able to give me, because my notion of their power has been less vague, and more founded upon experience — borne along by the flight of a pair of fiery horses, slender and shapely as one sees them in the drawings of Constantin Guys, carrying on its box an enormous coachman, furred like a cossack, and by his side a diminutive groom, like Toby, “the late Beaudenord’s tiger,” I saw — or rather I felt its outlines engraved upon my heart by a clean and killing stab — a matchless victoria, built rather high, and hinting, through the extreme modernity of its appointments, at the forms of an earlier day, deep down in which lay negligently back Mme. Swann, her hair, now quite pale with one grey lock, girt with a narrow band of flowers, usually violets, from which floated down long veils, a lilac parasol in her hand, on her lips an ambiguous smile in which I read only the benign condescension of Majesty, though it was pre-eminently the enticing smile of the courtesan, which she graciously bestowed upon the men who bowed to her. That smile was, in reality, saying to one: “Oh yes, I do remember, quite well; it was wonderful!” to another: “How I should have loved to! We were unfortunate!”, to a third: “Yes, if you like! I must just keep in the line for a minute, then as soon as I can I will break away.” When strangers passed she still allowed to linger about her lips a lazy smile, as though she expected or remembered some friend, which made them say: “What a lovely woman!”. And for certain men only she had a sour, strained, shy, cold smile which meant: “Yes, you old goat, I know that you’ve got a tongue like a viper, that you can’t keep quiet for a moment. But do you suppose that I care what you say?” Coquelin passed, talking, in a group of listening friends, and with a sweeping wave of his hand bade a theatrical good day to the people in the carriages. But I thought only of Mme. Swann, and pretended to have not yet seen her, for I knew that, when she reached the pigeon-shooting ground, she would tell her coachman to ‘break away’ and to stop the carriage, so that she might come back on foot. And on days when I felt that I had the courage to pass close by her I would drag Françoise off in that direction; until the moment came when I saw Mme. Swann, letting trail behind her the long train of her lilac skirt, dressed, as the populace imagine queens to be dressed, in rich attire such as no other woman might wear, lowering her eyes now and then to study the handle of her parasol, paying scant attention to the passers-by, as though the important thing for her, her one object in being there, was to take exercise, without thinking that she was seen, and that every head was turned towards her. Sometimes, however, when she had looked back to call her dog to her, she would cast, almost imperceptibly, a sweeping glance round about.

Those even who did not know her were warned by something exceptional, something beyond the normal in her — or perhaps by a telepathic suggestion such as would move an ignorant audience to a frenzy of applause when Berma (Sarah Bernhardt) was ‘sublime’— that she must be some one well-known. They would ask one another, “Who is she?”, or sometimes would interrogate a passing stranger, or would make a mental note of how she was dressed so as to fix her identity, later, in the mind of a friend better informed than themselves, who would at once enlighten them. Another pair, half-stopping in their walk, would exchange:

“You know who that is? Mme. Swann! That conveys nothing to you? Odette de Crécy, then?”

“Odette de Crécy! Why, I thought as much. Those great, sad eyes... But I say, you know, she can’t be as young as she was once, eh? I remember, I had her on the day that MacMahon went.”

“I shouldn’t remind her of it, if I were you. She is now Mme. Swann, the wife of a gentleman in the Jockey Club, a friend of the Prince of Wales. Apart from that, though, she is wonderful still.”

“Oh, but you ought to have known her then; Gad, she was lovely! She lived in a very odd little house with a lot of Chinese stuff. I remember, we were bothered all the time by the newsboys, shouting outside; in the end she made me get up and go.”

Without listening to these memories, I could feel all about her the indistinct murmur of fame. My heart leaped with impatience when I thought that a few seconds must still elapse before all these people, among whom I was dismayed not to find a certain mulatto banker who (or so I felt) had a contempt for me, were to see the unknown youth, to whom they had not, so far, been paying the slightest attention, salute (without knowing her, it was true, but I thought that I had sufficient authority since my parents knew her husband and I was her daughter’s playmate) this woman whose reputation for beauty, for misconduct, and for elegance was universal. But I was now close to Mme. Swann; I pulled off my hat with so lavish, so prolonged a gesture that she could not repress a smile. People laughed. As for her, she had never seen me with Gilberte, she did not know my name, but I was for her — like one of the keepers in the Bois, like the boatman, or the ducks on the lake, to which she threw scraps of bread — one of the minor personages, familiar, nameless, as devoid of individual character as a stage-hand in a theatre, of her daily walks abroad.

Du Côté de Chez Swann, Noms de Pays: Le Nom  Marcel Proust  1922;  translated by C. K. Scott Moncrief 1930.

The phrasing in the last paragraph is extraordinary.  Reading about the act of a child in servitude to his imagination and to "this woman whose reputation for beauty, for misconduct, and for elegance was universal," we also can't repress a smile.

Tags: Proust
Posted 9/26/2010 1:24pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The life of Swann’s love, the fidelity of his jealousy, were formed out of death, of infidelity, of innumerable desires, innumerable doubts, all of which had Odette for their object. If he had remained for any length of time without seeing her, those that died would not have been replaced by others. But the presence of Odette continued to sow in Swann’s heart alternate seeds of love and suspicion. 

Du Côté de Chez Swann, À la Recherche du Temps Perdu Tome I  Marcel Proust 1913;  Translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922.

Posted 8/15/2010 4:42pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Seeking solace for his faltering relationship with Odette—a demimondaine with whom he has fallen in love—who now sees other men, Swann returns to high society in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. At a ball he sees his friend, the Princess des Laumes.

    "...We are indulging in the most refined form of humour, my dear Charles—but how tiresome it is that I never see you now,” she went on in a coaxing tone, “I do so love talking to you...  Do agree that life is a dreadful business. It’s only when I see you that I stop feeling bored.”

    Which was probably not true. But Swann and the Princess had the same way of looking at the little things of life... Since Swann had become so melancholy, and was always in that trembling condition which precedes a flood of tears, he had the same need to speak about his grief that a murderer has to tell some one about his crime. And when he heard the Princess say that life was a dreadful business, he felt as much comforted as if she had spoken to him of Odette.

    “Yes, life is a dreadful business! We must meet more often, my dear friend. What is so nice about you is that you are not cheerful. We could spend a most pleasant evening together.”

Du Côté de Chez Swann Marcel Proust 1913; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922

Posted 6/13/2010 7:52pm by Eugene Wyatt.

“I swear to you,” Swann told Odette, shortly before she was to leave for the theatre, “that, in asking you not to go, I should hope, were I a selfish man, for nothing so much as that you should refuse, for I have a thousand other things to do this evening, and I shall feel that I have been tricked and trapped myself, and shall be thoroughly annoyed, if, after all, you tell me that you are not going.

But my occupations, my pleasures are not everything; I must think of you also.

A day may come when, seeing me irrevocably sundered from you, you will be entitled to reproach me for not having warned you at the decisive hour in which I passed judgment on you, one of those stern judgments which love cannot overcome..."

—Marcel Proust, Du côté de chez Swann, 1913.  My translation, my emphasis.

Posted 6/2/2010 5:18pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Swann catches Odette ineptly lying to him about someone else she's seeing.  So in love with her he is; "Poor darling," he pitys her rather than himself.

He had an idea that it was not merely the truth about what had occurred that afternoon that she was endeavouring to hide from him, but something more immediate, something, possibly, which had not yet happened, but might happen now at any time, and, when it did, would throw a light upon that earlier event.

At that moment, he heard the front-door bell ring.  Odette never stopped speaking, but her words dwindled into an inarticulate moan.

—Marcel Proust, Du côté de chez Swann, 1913.  Translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, 1922.

Posted 5/27/2010 6:54am by Eugene Wyatt.


But then, at once, his jealousy, as it had been the shadow of his love, presented him with the complement, /with the converse of that new smile with which she had greeted him that very evening,—with which, now, perversely, /she was mocking Swann while she tendered her love to another—of that lowering of her head, but lowered now to fall on other lips, /and (but bestowed upon a stranger) of all the marks of affection that she had shewn to him. /And all these voluptuous memories which he bore away from her house were, as one might say, but so many sketches, rough plans, /like the schemes of decoration which a designer submits to one in outline, enabling Swann to form an idea of the various attitudes, /aflame or faint with passion, which she was capable of adopting for others. /With the result that he came to regret every pleasure that he tasted in her company, /every new caress that he invented (and had been so imprudent as to point out to her how delightful it was), /every fresh charm that he found in her, for he knew that, a moment later, /they would go to enrich the collection of instruments in his secret torture-chamber.

Swann's Way  Marcel Proust 1913; as delivered to my iPhone by Twitter;  translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922.

Posted 5/17/2010 8:48am by Eugene Wyatt.

"One day, when reflections of this order had brought him once again to the memory of the time when some one had spoken to him of Odette as of a ‘kept’ woman, and when, once again, he had amused himself with contrasting that strange personification, the ‘kept’ woman—an iridescent mixture of unknown and demoniacal qualities, embroidered, as in some fantasy of Gustave Moreau, with poison-dripping flowers, interwoven with precious jewels—with that Odette upon whose face he had watched the passage of the same expressions of pity for a sufferer, resentment of an act of injustice, gratitude for an act of kindness, which he had seen, in earlier days, on his own mother’s face, and on the faces of friends; that Odette, whose conversation had so frequently turned on the things that he himself knew better than anyone, his collections, his room, his old servant, his banker, who kept all his title-deeds and bonds;—the thought of the banker reminded him that he must call on him shortly, to draw some money.

And indeed, if, during the current month, he were to come less liberally to the aid of Odette in her financial difficulties than in the month before, when he had given her five thousand francs, if he refrained from offering her a diamond necklace for which she longed, he would be allowing her admiration for his generosity to decline, that gratitude which had made him so happy, and would even be running the risk of her imagining that his love for her (as she saw its visible manifestations grow fewer) had itself diminished.

And then, suddenly, he asked himself whether that was not precisely what was implied by ‘keeping’ a woman (as if, in fact, that idea of ‘keeping’ could be derived from elements not at all mysterious nor perverse, but belonging to the intimate routine of his daily life, such as that thousand-franc note, a familiar and domestic object, torn in places and mended with gummed paper, which his valet, after paying the household accounts and the rent, had locked up in a drawer of the old writing-desk whence he had extracted it to send it, with four others, to Odette) and whether it was not possible to apply to Odette, since he had known her (for he never imagined for a moment that she could ever have taken a penny from anyone else, before), that title, which he had believed so wholly inapplicable to her, of ‘kept’ woman."

On Twitter (proustr) I follow Swann in Love  1913, Marcel Proust, translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.  The first of these three sentences, delivered once an hour in approximate 140 character segments, began on May 16th at 0:38; the final sentence concluded on May 16th at 23:38, exactly 24 hours later.

At this pace, I can re-read & think through those woven Proustian sentences (or question the translation)  anywhere I am being they're on my constant companion, my iPhone.  I don't have to find the book and make the time or find a place on the N train uptown  to read. 

Posted 4/22/2010 8:09am by Catskill Merino.

"...he says something, not because it is true but because he enjoys saying it, and listens to his own voice uttering the words as though they came from some one else..."

Marcel Proust, 1913

Posted 4/19/2010 8:43pm by Catskill Merino.

This time on Twitter @proustrSwann's Way*, once every hour, 140 characters at a time or "Actually...phrase(s) at a time, where a phrase is a...way to break up a sentence at a logical point."

From chapter three, Swann in Love, the following sentence was delivered in 5 installments; it began with a tweet at 7:38 AM and concluded with a tweet at 11:38 AM.

But, now that he was in love with Odette, all this was changed; to share her sympathies,

to strive to be one with her in spirit was a task so attractive that he tried to find satisfaction in the things that she liked,

and did find a pleasure, not only in copying her habits but in adopting her opinions, which was all the deeper because,

as those habits and opinions sprang from no roots in her intelligence, they suggested to him nothing except that love,

for the sake of which(,) he had preferred them to his own.

Let Swann's pedantry for beauty, that he subordinates to his love of Odette, be mine for the intriguing Proustian syntax that I savour in this periodic, phrase-by-phrase reading of the novel. 

Does anyone beside me think that the translation needs the parenthetical comma I added?  Here is the sentence as Proust wrote it.

Mais, au contraire, depuis qu’il aimait Odette, sympathiser avec elle, tâcher de n’avoir qu’une âme à eux deux lui était si doux, qu’il cherchait à se plaire aux choses qu’elle aimait, et il trouvait un plaisir d’autant plus profond non seulement à imiter ses habitudes, mais à adopter ses opinions, que, comme elles n’avaient aucune racine dans sa propre intelligence, elles lui rappelaient seulement son amour, à cause duquel il les avait préférées.

You decide; as Shakespeare wrote, but not about your French, "...but that was in another country and besides the wench is dead."

*Du côté de chez Swann translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.

Posted 11/25/2009 6:29pm by Catskill Merino.

Love's pendulum:

When he came away from Odette, he was happy, he felt calm, he recalled the smile with which, in gentle mockery, she had spoken to him of this man or of that, a smile which was all tenderness for himself; he recalled the gravity of her head which she seemed to have lifted from its axis to let it droop and fall, as though against her will, upon his lips, as she had done on that first evening in the carriage; her languishing gaze at him while she lay nestling in his arms, her bended head seeming to recede between her shoulders, as though shrinking from the cold.

But then, at once, his jealousy, as it had been the shadow of his love, presented him with the complement, with the converse of that new smile with which she had greeted him that very evening—with which, now, perversely, she was mocking Swann while she tendered her love to another—of that lowering of her head, but lowered now to fall on other lips, and (but bestowed upon a stranger) of all the marks of affection that she had shewn to him. And all these voluptuous memories which he bore away from her house were, as one might say, but so many sketches, rough plans, like the schemes of decoration which a designer submits to one in outline, enabling Swann to form an idea of the various attitudes, aflame or faint with passion, which she was capable of adopting for others. With the result that he came to regret every pleasure that he tasted in her company, every new caress that he invented (and had been so imprudent as to point out to her how delightful it was), every fresh charm that he found in her, for he knew that, a moment later, they would go to enrich the collection of instruments in his secret torture-chamber.

—Marcel Proust, Du côté de chez Swann, 1913.  Translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.

Posted 11/24/2009 1:32pm by Catskill Merino.

A forbidden visit:

Even before he saw Odette, even if he did not succeed in seeing her there, what a joy it would be to set foot on that soil where, not knowing the exact spot in which, at any moment, she was to be found, he would feel all around him the thrilling possibility of her suddenly appearing: in the courtyard of the Château, now beautiful in his eyes since it was on her account that he had gone to visit it; in all the streets of the town, which struck him as romantic; down every ride of the forest, roseate with the deep and tender glow of sunset—innumerable and alternative hiding-places, to which would fly simultaneously for refuge, in the uncertain ubiquity of his hopes, his happy, vagabond and divided heart.

—Marcel Proust, Du côté de chez Swann, 1913.  Translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.

Posted 11/15/2009 8:36am by Catskill Merino.

A good cup of tea:

He would escort her to her gate, but no farther. Twice only had he gone inside to take part in the ceremony—of such vital importance in her life—of ‘afternoon tea.’ The loneliness and emptiness of those short streets (consisting, almost entirely, of low-roofed houses, self-contained but not detached, their monotony interrupted here and there by the dark intrusion of some sinister little shop, at once an historical document and a sordid survival from the days when the district was still one of ill repute), the snow which had lain on the garden-beds or clung to the branches of the trees, the careless disarray of the season, the assertion, in this man-made city, of a state of nature, had all combined to add an element of mystery to the warmth, the flowers, the luxury which he had found inside...

Odette had received him in a tea-gown of pink silk, which left her neck and arms bare. She had made him sit down beside her in one of the many mysterious little retreats which had been contrived in the various recesses of the room, sheltered by enormous palmtrees growing out of pots of Chinese porcelain, or by screens upon which were fastened photographs and fans and bows of ribbon. She had said at once, “You’re not comfortable there; wait a minute, I’ll arrange things for you,” and with a titter of laughter, the complacency of which implied that some little invention of her own was being brought into play, she had installed behind his head and beneath his feet great cushions of Japanese silk, which she pummelled and buffeted as though determined to lavish on him all her riches, and regardless of their value...

She poured out Swann’s tea, inquired “Lemon or cream?” and, on his answering “Cream, please,” went on, smiling, “A cloud!” And as he pronounced it excellent, “You see, I know just how you like it.”

This tea had indeed seemed to Swann, just as it seemed to her, something precious, and love is so far obliged to find some justification for itself, some guarantee of its duration in pleasures which, on the contrary, would have no existence apart from love and must cease with its passing,* that when he left her, at seven o’clock, to go and dress for the evening, all the way home, sitting bolt upright in his brougham, unable to repress the happiness with which the afternoon’s adventure had filled him, he kept on repeating to himself: “What fun it would be to have a little woman like that in a place where one could always be certain of finding, what one never can be certain of finding, a really good cup of tea.”

—Marcel Proust, Du côté de chez Swann, 1913.  Translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.

*À la recherche d'amor perdu, my emphasis.

Posted 11/8/2009 7:33pm by Catskill Merino.

On a phrase from an imaginary sonata:

With a slow and rhythmical movement it led him (Swann) here, there, everywhere, towards a state of happiness, noble, unintelligible, yet clearly indicated. And then, suddenly having reached a certain point from which he was prepared to follow it, after pausing for a moment, abruptly it changed its direction, and in a fresh movement, more rapid, multiform, melancholy, incessant, sweet, it bore him off with it towards a vista of joys unknown. Then it vanished. He hoped, with a passionate longing, that he might find it again, a third time. And reappear it did, though without speaking to him more clearly, bringing him, indeed, a pleasure less profound. But when he was once more at home he needed it, he was like a man into whose life a woman, whom he has seen for a moment passing by, has brought a new form of beauty, which strengthens and enlarges his own power of perception, without his knowing even whether he is ever to see her again whom he loves already, although he knows nothing of her, not even her name. 

—Marcel Proust, Du côté de chez Swann, 1913.  Translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.

Posted 10/20/2009 8:07pm by Catskill Merino.

The NYS Sheep & Wool Festival occurs in Rhinebeck at the Dutchess Co. Fairgrounds every year on the third weekend in October.  It is the largest event of its kind in the Northeast; Sunday was a cool and gray day outside under the leaves changing from greens to ochres then oranges.

Many thousands of people come to look at the sheep and  buy from the wool vendors in their stands.   There were no Merino sheep this year; Dominique and I looked at  Romneys, Rambouillets, Oxfords, Leicesters, Cotswalds and  Suffolks—sheep smell like homeand we looked at the yarn displays for ideas on how to better display the yarn at market. 

Peggy Hart, a weaver in her stand at Rhinebeck

Several years ago, Peggy wove blankets for me with yarn spun from my merino wool; New Yorkers loved them.  She and I talked about weaving more throws; I photographed her latest work for reference when we discuss designs—all hers are unique—Peggy likes the challenge of weaving ideas and patterns that are new.  See her work at Bedfellows Blankets where you'll see two examples of  the merino blankets she wove along with a picture of several of my ewes.

Also I wanted to meet Clara Parkes, who was there signing copies of her new book, The Knitters Book of Wool in which, among other things, she reestablishes the link between wool and sheep, pasture and farms.  Here are excerpts about the book from her newsletter The Knitters Review to which you can subscribe:

I'm drawn to yarns that have more of a story, whether it's the fibers, the mill, or the dyer. And the yarns I really love tend to come straight from the farm. Call me romantic, but when the hands that nurtured an animal hand you a skein of its yarn, you get a more meaningful, enduring product.


Because really, nothing beats wool. It's an extraordinary material—annually renewable and recyclable—with infinite potential. It can be wispy and sensual when it wants to be, it can be gruff and powerful, it can put out fires and keep families warm at night, it can be stepped on, sat under, rained on, and wrapped up in again and again.

Among other very useful items in her newsletter, she knits up and reviews a new yarn  almost every week.  I've learned much from Clara on yarn  She signed my copy of her book and we talked; I told her I would send her some of my yarn.

Winding through the crowds seeing more people I knew, "Hi" to Madeline Nichols of Ewe & Me Merinos who bought my 11th born sheep, a ram named "Elf," back in the 80's.  Her stand gets fuller and better every year she does Rhinebeck and  "Hi" to Deirdre of Greener Shades, an ecologically correct dye supplier who spins in Connecticut.

We were hungry. From a stand that might have been called Shakespeare's Spuds, Dominique and I bought for $7.00 an overflowing, supersize order of french fries which we salted well—one, two, three shakes and four—and splashed them with malt vinegar too.  We found a dry place to eat under a large tree. So hungry,  we didn't care if the potatoes came from a field down the road or from the mountains of Peru, O the hot oil deliciously dripped off them: trans-fat, sans-fat; who gives a fat when you're hungry—these were fries from God—we began to devour them with such gusto that several well-dressed, matronly passers-by stopped and spoke about the fries, "Greasy, they look greasy, are they greasy?" "But they do look good." To every one and to no one in particular with my mouth full I said, "Yes, these are greasy-good fries." Where did you get them," we were asked by a chorus whose caloric guilt had been overcome at the sight of  us delightfully going down and I couldn't help but think of kids looking in the smeared front window of a McDonalds in East Harlem—now you know—I wiped salty, glistening fingers on my Levis and pointed to the stand, "There, Let the sky rain potatoes."  We continued along toward the exit.

At the gate, and into my box truck, we loaded 10 round bale feeders (40  steel panels) from Sydell, a manufacturer of sheep handling equipment in South Dakota, who trucks your order to Rhinebeck waiving the shipping charge if you pick it up there.  The feeder design is excellent; it collapses (slides together) to always contact  the round bale permitting the sheep eat it away.  It's safe and they don't waste the hay.

Crossing the Hudson at Kingston—the feeders clanging on the bumpsheading south on the Thruway in the Sunday city-bound traffic—hoping that Dominique wouldn't mind—I played a download from Audible.com of Proust's À la Recherche du Temps Perdu translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and read well by John Rowe

Listening to Proust in the hesitating traffic—speeding up to slow down again—this serpentine somewhat periodic sentence had me waiting for its conclusion, even though I was lost in its middle;  this is where the narrator pays a surprise visit to his uncle in Paris and finds him with the "lady in pink."  

And yet, when I thought of what her life must be like, its immorality disturbed me more, perhaps, than if it had stood before me in some concrete and recognizable form, by its secrecy and invisibility, like the plot of a novel, the hidden truth of a scandal which had driven out of the home of her middle-class parents and dedicated to the service of all mankind which had brought to the flowering-point of her beauty, had raised to fame or notoriety, the play of whose features, the intonations of whose voice, like so many others I already knew, made me regard her, in spite of myself, as a young lady of good family, her who was no longer of a family at all.

The French is difficult. I looked at the original before I changed  Moncrieff's translation above.  I am still lost in the middle, but now as M. Proust would have me lost, or so I hope.